Soooooooo the Patriots lost Saturday night. And Tom Brady walked off the field angrily! He said retiring was unlikely, but he DIDN’T swear a blood oath to Bill Belichick in that moment, so now it’s up to us to put the pieces together.
Would he come to the Bears? Would the Bears have him?(yes) How are we supposed to feel about the Bears maybe-probably being in the market for a quarterback while literally the greatest quarterback of all time is available on said market? There’s a heavy dose of speculation when we talk about what number he’ll wear on the Bears next season, but right now we’re approaching a window where it is technically possible, and that’s enough! Unfortunately, talking about it actually makes things worse, so get! ready! to! be! bummed!
The Skills Issue
Everyone loved to point out that Mitch Trubisky actually had better numbers than Brady for much of the season, which is as fun to say out loud as it is meaningless. In a vacuum, replacing your young franchise quarterback (that’s still what he is, I’m sorry, take it up with someone else) with a 42-year-old who hasn’t looked all that much better gets you fired. In reality, it’s hard to imagine the Bears wouldn’t leap at the opportunity if everything fell into place.
Still, Brady is coming off a season where he had his worst completion percentage in six years. His 6.6 Y/A (yards gained per pass attempt) was his lowest since 2002; he finished with a Quarterback Rating under 90 for the first time since 2013 and only the second time this decade. He’s also going to be 43 next season, which is what all those arbitrarily listed stats above were getting at. He’s still Tom Brady – Pro Football Focus had him as 2019’s 12th-best QB – but at this point you’re paying for what Brady’s done, and not what he’s going to do. Which brings us to …
The Money Issue
To be clear, Brady’s been giving New England those infamous hometown ‘discounts’ in large part because of his close relationship with owner Robert Kraft. Brady doesn’t go back with other owners like that. It’ll be nothing personal when he’s negotiating with the McCaskeys, or Dean Spanos, or whoever fits your theory. His base salary was set to be $30 million next year; players hit the open market for any number of personal reasons, but usually all do it for the same financial one.
Which brings us to the Bears, who, as of today, will be working with a budget roughly half that size this offseason. According to Spotrac, the Bears have $15 million in salary cap space this offseason, which is not the worst cap situation in the NFL (the Bears are back!), but it’s not far off. So as it stands during the first week of January, it’s not even financially possible.
With that said, a lot of times bad cap situations can sound scarier than they end up being, and GM Ryan Pace has shown during multiple points in his Bears’ tenure an ability to find creative ways to stay competitive on the market. Kyle Long’s contract ($9 million) will come off the books this offseason, and Prince Amukamara’s ($10 million) and Taylor Gabriel’s ($5.5 million) don’t look particularly safe either. An Allen Robinson extension – or any vet restructuring – would free up short-term money.
But do you really want to do all this for one or two years of Tom Brady? The Bears need a tight end, multiple offensive linemen, a starting free safety, another tight end, and a few inside linebackers too. They’re going to get all that done *and* sign the greatest quarterback of all time to his first real market-value contract?
The Fit Issue
Trubisky is coming back either way – and making $9 million while doing so. Ryan Pace was adamant about that, but whatever, I dove into the rabbit hole with Brady speculation so who am I to throw shade at Pace Truthers? In this scenario, I’ll stick my neck out and say Brady wins the job in camp, which means that Trubisky becomes QB2. Here’s where it should be noted that in that situation, the Bears went from paying $4 million for a backup QB who knows the offense innately to paying $9 million for a backup whose offseason goals are to “become a master of understanding coverages.”
Maybe that’s a risk you take when QB1 is Tom Brady, who admittedly has a track record of durability that almost makes the decision seem plausible. That is a BIG swing, though, especially on a team that, personnel-wise, is not as close to Super Bowl contention as the assumption seems to be.
*And now, some unrelated questions that I couldn’t weave into the narrative well enough: Does Brady, a West Coast guy who now lives in Boston/NYC want to move to the midwest? Is Nagy going to be okay bringing in a different quarterback and still intentionally abandoning large chunks of his offense? What number will Allen Robinson have to wear?*
At the end of year press conference, Pace noted that, “We go through this and I don’t think it’s one person’s fault. As we go through this whole thing, there’s a lot of factors in play we can talk about.” It was a vague, unhelpful answer but worked because it’s also undeniably true. The Bears have a lot of doors they can choose this offseason, and throwing all the money at a huge name like Brady, who’s immediately the new starter, is definitely one of them.
But just about everything besides the fact that He Is Tom Brady points to it being the wrong decision. It’s certainly fun speculation though, like that time we all speculated that they’d trade for Khalil Mack.