Patriots, Brady Still Open to a Possible Reunion

Things got overheated on the "Brady Front" last week.

Blame it on the giddiness NFL Combine kicking off.

Blame it on the inaccurate report the Patriots were to meet with Tom Brady's agent Don Yee in Indy.

Blame it on the ensuing alarm when it became clear the two sides weren't meeting.

Blame it on the flimsy excuse that no talks have taken place because the new CBA isn't ratified. Really? You need a new CBA to have a, "Hey, how are ya … what are ya thinking… we love ya …" conversation?

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Blame it on the very enthusiastic reports that Brady is gone, gone, gone and already embracing free agent life.

Blame Julian Edelman for saying Brady's coming back. Blame Brady for saying, "He's not…" or "Let's not…" or "That's snot …" or "This guy …"

In the end, blame the media – of which I am a member – for running around lighting fires and then alternately either throwing water or gasoline on them and watching it all burn.

We are now T-minus 15 days until Brady becomes a free agent. Let's recalibrate on the whole thing.

First off, this is not a Cold War.

The Patriots want Tom Brady to play quarterback for them in 2020. There are financial hoops to jump through. There are personnel obstacles to clear. Understandings on both sides need to be reached.

But the Patriots want to try and make that happen.

There's been no meeting, but it hasn't been total radio silence – texts have been sent. Bill Belichick is not freezing Brady out.

Last week, I wrote a column saying the dreaded fate of "bad optics" awaited the Patriots if it appeared Belichick was dragging his feet to bring Brady back. He isn't.

The Patriots are already active in overhauling their offense and, while the timetable for Brady becoming a free agent makes it tough for the team to make seismic moves to improve, don't be surprised if the team is busy on the trade market before free agency opens.

Where do things stand with Brady? It isn't the lost cause it was reported to be.

Last Friday, as a seeming rebuttal to the Patriots' excuse that the CBA was holding things up, ESPN's Jeff Darlington said in essence that, CBA or no, this is Brady's decision and he may be beyond convincing to return.

When I asked a source whether Brady had washed his hands of the Patriots, I was told, "Of course not. There's an attachment there. You can't be someplace for 20 years and not have an attachment. That's just not who he is."

Brady, I was told, will listen closely to what the Patriots have to say.

What will the Patriots say? That this is the best place for him. That there are innumerable things in place here that – if he goes to another city, another franchise, another facility, another coaching staff – he just won't have.

"Wherever he goes, there won't be one guy who knows what he wants done and how he wants it done," said an NFL source. "Is he going to coach the receivers coach on how to coach the receivers? Or coach the offensive coordinator? There's a million things."

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The exhilaration of being released from 20 years working in the strictest and most demanding environment in the NFL will be fleeting, the source said. And if he goes, Brady alone will be the one living with the decision.

"There may be excitement for five minutes after he sticks it to the Patriots," the source said. " ‘Yeah, F--- Bill!" But he's the only one who has to live with the reality. The five minutes in March is gone when the season starts and the entire thing is on Tom."

Last month, I reported that the Patriots weren't going to be "super vigilant" about other teams having back-channel communication with Brady prior to free agency.

The Patriots' pitch won't revolve around money anyway. And it can be argued it makes the process easier for the Patriots if Brady comes to the table armed with an understanding of what the market looks like.

Two team sources felt Brady would be making a mistake if he went somewhere else. One expressed doubt that the frenzy for his services many are predicting will really exist. Brady's age, the money involved and the commitment to Brady for two years through his 44-year-old season could be too daunting, the source said.

As for possible suitors? There's a feeling that – while all the skill-position pieces may be in place in Tampa Bay – laid-back head coach Bruce Arians may be too much of a swing in the opposite direction from "No Days Off!" Belichick. Las Vegas head coach Jon Gruden, I was told, isn't going to cold-shoulder Brady if the quarterback's people reach out but the team isn't planning to give great chase.

Not surprisingly, the indications from folks closer to Brady is that the competition is expected to be fierce. Brady himself is surprised at the level of interest he now believes he's going to draw when he hits free agency. If he hits free agency.

Because – aside from all the projecting, predicting and lip-reading that's going on even from people really close to the situation – the one thing that's sure to happen is this. Tom Brady and the Patriots are going to meet and – while it may be hard to keep him off the market – the team will try and the player will listen.

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