Tom Brady Rumor Season Is ‘Not Looking Good’ for the Patriots

The Ringer’s offseason live blog will keep track of the deals, trades, cuts, rumors, predictions, and everything else you need to know about free agency and the draft. Check back for the latest news from around the league both ahead of the so-called legal tampering period (which begins on Monday, March 16) and after players can begin signing (Wednesday, March 18).

Tom Brady Watch, Combine Edition: Sources Say “It’s Not Looking Good” for the Patriots

February 27, 9:30 a.m. PT

Danny Heifetz: The Patriots and Tom Brady are taking a break, and rumor has it that it will soon become a breakup. Like the rest of this offseason’s great Tom Brady saga, when interest is maximal but information is minimal, all Brady-related push notifications can be categorized into speculation versus information. When ESPN’s Jeff Darlington went on Get Up! Thursday morning and proclaimed that he would be “stunned” if Brady returned to the Patriots, that is educated speculation—but speculation nonetheless.

The most substantive information to come out Thursday was that the Patriots have still yet to reach out to Brady or his agents for a new contract, according to The Boston Herald’s Karen Guregian. Per Guregian’s source, “it’s not looking good” for New England.

That report is curious considering the prior reports that the team wants to get a Brady deal done before free agency begins on March 18. The March 18 deadline has been identified for two reasons: (1) Failing to re-sign Brady before then would create $13.5 million in dead money on the Patriots’ salary cap, but signing him before that date would allow New England to spread that accounting cost over two years; and (2) the Patriots don’t want to wait if they have to find a new starting quarterback. With plenty of viable quarterback options available in free agency or on the trade block, including players like Teddy Bridgewater, Cam Newton, and Philip Rivers, the Pats want to go into free agency knowing whether Brady is with them or not.

Complicating the (lack of) negotiations here is that the league and players have yet to agree to a new CBA, and it may not make sense for Bill Belichick and Co. to make contact with Brady’s representation until they understand the salary cap situation in 2020 and beyond. For now, we’re just left with big Ross and Rachel energy.

Washington Isn’t Going to Draft a QB—We Think

February 26, 4:15 p.m. PT

Justin Sayles: New Washington head coach Ron Rivera told reporters on Wednesday that his team will meet with Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa—the top two quarterback prospects in this year’s draft—this week in Indianapolis. It makes sense for the team with the no. 2 pick to explore all of its options. But there’s one catch: Washington drafted a QB in the first round just last year. Could the team really be ready to move on from Dwayne Haskins so soon?

Probably not. Teams do their due diligence on all the players they could theoretically be in position to draft; it would be irresponsible not to. Plus, the intel gathered in these meetings could bear fruit later, should the player become available. Or perhaps another team interested in Burrow or Tagovailoa may get nervous and offer Washington a haul for the no. 2 spot. This is logical football maneuvering—something Washington fans haven’t seen for a while.

However, one of Rivera’s comments on Wednesday would seem to indicate that moving on from Haskins is in play, if not likely: “Everything is an option. We’re not closing the door on anything.” This would be unheard of had a similar situation not happened in 2019, when the Cardinals used the no. 1 pick to take Kyler Murray and then traded Josh Rosen, whom they’d picked in the first round the previous year. There were different dynamics at play—namely, incoming Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury was a longtime fan of Murray—but there are some similarities. Washington, like Arizona in 2019, has a new regime in place that has no ties to the previous first-rounder. If Haskins isn’t the preferred quarterback of Rivera and new vice president of player personnel Kyle Smith, and if they feel that they may not be in position to draft another signal-caller highly for a while, they may strike this April.

There’s also the matter of Haskins outperforming Rosen as a rookie, however slightly. Rosen was considered an NFL-ready prospect entering the league in 2018. While he played behind a terrible offensive line in his first season, he did little to back up the hype. Going by adjusted net yards per attempt, Rosen posted the fourth-worst season ever for a rookie QB, ahead of only Jared Goff, Ryan Leaf, and Terry Bradshaw. Haskins appears on the list at no. 15, and while he was terrible as a pocket passer, he started just seven games to Rosen’s 13. In those small sample sizes, most of the numbers favor Haskins. While there were questions about Haskins’s mobility entering the league, he flashed the ability to move in the pocket in 2019. With a new coaching staff, he could flourish.

So for now, expect Washington to remain where it’s at in the draft and focus on taking Haskins’s former Ohio State teammate Chase Young. But if someone unearths some old Rivera comments pining for Tua, the expectations could shift.

It Always Made Sense for the Panthers to Stick With Cam Newton

February 25, 10:53 a.m. PT

Riley McAtee: The Panthers will stick with Cam Newton. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the team is happy with how Newton’s rehab from a Lisfranc injury is progressing and want to ease the transition to new head coach Matt Rhule:

That report should put to bed months of speculation that Carolina would move on from its longtime quarterback. It also serves as a positive marker for Newton’s health, which has hung over Carolina’s offseason like a storm cloud. On February 11, owner David Tepper said the main hangup was Newton’s health. “Is he healthy?” Tepper said at the time. “Tell me that and then we can talk.” Newton isn’t 100 percent just yet, with Rapoport saying “it will be several months” until Newton’s foot, which he injured in the 2019 preseason and underwent surgery to repair in December, is healthy.

Newton will turn 31 in 2020, and is entering the last year of his deal with the Panthers. He’s repeatedly said that he wants to remain with the Panthers, and if he can return to form, the Panthers would surely love to have him. At his best he’s a one-of-a-kind QB capable of winning the league’s MVP award and carrying his team to the Super Bowl. A great quarterback is the best asset in the NFL, and the Panthers, owners of the no. 7 pick, aren’t likely to get Joe Burrow or Tua Tagovailoa in the draft. It always made sense for them to give Cam at least one more shot.

Stefon Diggs Removes Instagram Posts

February 19, 6:05 a.m. PT

Heifetz: Stefon Diggs has removed all of his photos of him in Vikings gear from his Instagram account, so we are officially back on Stefon Diggs trade watch. But before we dive in, let’s clarify: We do not know that Diggs deleted these posts. Instagram lets you archive pictures, so the wishy-washy among us can take something off the timeline but still have the option to bring it back.

Having said that, removing the photos, permanently or not, would be a weird thing to do unless Diggs wants a trade or thinks he is going to get traded. It’s one thing to do this if he had left the team, but it’s another to do it while he’s still on it. Last night, amid this trade speculation, Diggs (who appears to be in his hometown near Washington, D.C.) posted an Instagram with the caption “11:11… make a wish” around 11:11 p.m. ET. Vikings fans are wondering if he is wishing he plays for another team this season.

It is worth noting Diggs still has photos and videos of him in Vikings gear on his active Twitter account and his not-so-active Facebook account.

This is not the first time Diggs had a flare-up with the Vikings. Last year in Week 4, Diggs was asked point-blank about whether he’d requested a trade, and he, um, didn’t make much of an attempt to deflect.

”I said there’s truth to all rumors,” Diggs said. “What I mean by that … there’s a lot of speculation of me being frustrated. Of course being a receiver and wanting to have success and wanting to win. If you’re not winning, of course you’ll be frustrated. That’s my answer.”

Diggs had just four catches for 76 yards in two playoff games with the Vikings this year. In Minnesota’s 27-10 loss to the 49ers, Diggs caught a touchdown on the Vikings’ opening drive but did not catch another pass until Minnesota’s second-to-last drive of the game. Kirk Cousins is entering the final year of his contract, and the Vikings are committed to a run-heavy approach. Minnesota had the third-fewest pass attempts in the league and was one of three teams who ran more than they passed in 2019. Diggs may feel better suited to play for one of the 27 teams that passed more than 30 times per game last year, or at least for a different quarterback.

Drew Brees Is Back—Maybe for the Last Time

February 18, 10:49 a.m. PT

Heifetz: Drew Brees is going to play football in 2020, according to a very 41-year-old-dad Instagram post on Tuesday.

Not totally sure how this picture explains “my feelings about the 2020 season!” Is this a reference to reaching the mountaintop? Because there is definitely a higher mountaintop in the frame. Perhaps the cliff Brees is standing on represents the wild-card round, and he is staring at the divisional round in the distance?

Whatever the metaphor, Brees will be back in 2020 for his 20th season as an NFL quarterback and his 41st year on planet Earth. Only five other players have thrown 30 or more passes in a game at age 41 or older: Tom Brady, Warren Moon, Vinny Testaverde, Brett Favre, and Doug Flutie. Only Brady has done it more than seven times. Brees threw at least 30 passes in all 10 of his full starts last season, and he’s a safe bet to hit that threshold again this year. There is almost no blueprint for a 41-year-old quarterback leading an offense, let alone a good offense. There is just Brady’s past two years and Favre’s final season with the Vikings when he was 41 years old. Brees is charting his own course here.

New Orleans has become much more of a running team in recent years. In the nine seasons from 2007 to 2016, the Saints ranked in the top two in pass attempts seven times. But in the past three seasons, New Orleans has ranked no. 19, no. 23, and no. 13 in that category. A major part of that shift is the Saints defense going from one of the league’s worst to one of the league’s best. Better defensive play in recent years has given them more late leads and led to running the clock out more in the second half to seal wins. Brees’s arm strength is not what it was five years ago, so the Saints shifted to a run-oriented game with Alvin Kamara at a convenient time.

The Saints are coming off of three extremely disappointing seasons. The Minneapolis Miracle ended their 2017 season in the divisional round, the missed pass interference penalty in the NFC championship game kept them from the Super Bowl the next year, and they face-planted on their double revenge tour in the wild-card round this past January. Now Brees returns for what could be the last year of this absurdly talented Saints team. Cornerback Marshon Lattimore, right tackle Ryan Ramczyk, running back Alvin Kamara, and safety Marcus Williams are all All-Pro-caliber players, and all will be seeking second contracts next year. (Lattimore and Ramczyk will likely have a team option added for the 2021 season, while Kamara and Williams will be free agents next year.) Combine the uncertainty surrounding those players with the potential retirement of Brees, and the Saints might be hitting the reset button in 2021. We don’t know the exact terms Brees will agree on with the Saints, but his return is a formality and it’s unlikely he’ll sign a deal that binds him to the team beyond next season. What the Saints will do at quarterback beyond next year is a mystery.

New Orleans likely does not have the cap space to make a competitive offer to free agent Teddy Bridgewater, Brees’s backup in 2019 who went 5-0 after a wrist injury forced Brees out of the lineup midseason. He’s also likely to have a chance to compete for a starting job elsewhere for twice what he was paid last season. It’s unclear whether third-stringer Taysom Hill is viewed as a gadget player or a legitimate successor, so the Saints’ plan at quarterback is muddled. New Orleans has always been a team focused on the short term, and this year may take that to the extreme. This could be the last ride for the Sean Payton–Drew Brees Saints. New Orleans leads the league in just about every offensive category since the two teamed up in 2006, and Brees has become the all-time leader in passing touchdowns, passing yards, and completion percentage in that time. Now we’ll see whether he can get to the mountaintop.

Who Wants a 32-Year-Old Cornerback on the Decline?

February 14, 10:34 a.m. PT

Justin Sayles: You can put to bed the idea that new Washington head coach Ron Rivera can rejuvenate Josh Norman’s career.

According to the NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, the team is releasing the cornerback after four largely disappointing seasons. The move allows Norman to sign with another team starting now, before free agency begins in mid-March. The question is, will any team be in the market for a 32-year-old defensive back five years removed from his lone All-Pro appearance?

Norman signed with Washington in 2016 under dramatic circumstances: He had broken out in Carolina the previous season, emerging as a leader on a team that went 15-1 and made the Super Bowl. Then–Panthers GM Dave Gettleman franchise-tagged Norman, but quickly removed it after negotiations on a long-term deal stalled. Two days later, Norman signed a five-year, $75 million contract with Washington, which at the time made him the highest-paid cornerback in league history.

The move didn’t turn out to be an Albert Haynesworth–style disaster, but Washington hardly got what it paid for. Norman had just seven interceptions across four years and never ranked higher than no. 33 in Pro Football Focus’s cornerback grades. In 2019, when he started eight games after being benched at midseason, he came in at no. 191. As Norman flailed, so did Washington: The team won the NFC East the year before he arrived, but hasn’t made it back to the postseason since. In 2019, Washington finished 3-13 and 24th in Football Outsiders’ Defensive DVOA. There was simply no way the team was going to pay Norman the $12 million he was owed for 2020.

While Norman seemed to think Rivera could turn around the culture created by owner Dan Snyder and former team president Bruce Allen, he’ll have to watch that process play out from afar. (At the moment, he doesn’t seem too bothered.) But where could Norman land? Cornerbacks such as Joe Haden and Richard Sherman have had late-career resurgences after changes in scenery, but both are younger than Norman and had more consistent track records before splitting with their previous employer. There are certainly plenty of DB-needy teams out there—the Eagles, Cowboys, Vikings, Chiefs, and Lions immediately spring to mind—but with images like these likely burned into their minds, it may be hard for Norman to get a chance to rejuvenate his career anywhere.

The Lions Say They Aren’t Trading Matthew Stafford. But They Could Create Draft Chaos.

February 13, 10:56 a.m. PT

Heifetz: The Lions are not trading Matthew Stafford, at least according to the Lions.

On Thursday, general manager Bob Quinn quickly shot down a report from a Detroit TV station that the Lions are attempting to move the 11-year veteran. It would certainly be the right move to hold on to Stafford—before he went out with broken bones in his back in November, he was playing as well as he ever had. Lions ownership gave Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia a mandate to compete for a playoff spot in 2020, and the team’s best bet to do so is with Stafford under center.

While Thursday’s news will likely amount to little more than noise, it did underscore what could be one of this offseason’s biggest story lines: The Lions hold the third pick in April and are the key to how the rest of draft unfolds.

LSU’s Joe Burrow seems all but assured to be the Cincinnati Bengals’ choice at no. 1, and Washington would be remiss to not select Ohio State defensive end Chase Young at no. 2. But there’s no indication of what Detroit could do. The Lions could add the third-best player on their board, which could be versatile Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons, Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah, or one of the other top prospects. Or they might be wiser to make a trade. The Dolphins, Chargers, Panthers, Jaguars, Raiders, and Colts are all in the top 13 and could be looking to trade up for a franchise quarterback. If multiple teams show interest in the no. 3 pick, the Lions could host a bidding war.

How hungry teams are for new quarterbacks depends on two things: how free agency shakes out, and how excited teams are about the other top quarterbacks in this year’s draft class. We don’t know where Tom Brady and Cam Newton—or even Jameis Winston or Ryan Fitzpatrick—will end up now, but the musical chairs will mostly settle before April. By the time teams begin drafting, we can expect at least a couple of top-13 teams to still be searching for quarterbacks, and from there it depends on whether they are smitten with their options: Tua Tagovailoa from the University of Alabama and Justin Herbert from Oregon.

Tagovailoa had one of the most efficient passing careers in college football history and would be on Burrow’s tier as a prospect if not for a hip injury that prematurely ended his final college season. His hip fracture has healed and he will likely be able to participate in drills again in March, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. Tagovailoa’s hip will be examined by multiple NFL team doctors at the scouting combine in February. That medical information isn’t public, so we likely won’t know how close Tagovailoa is to 100 percent. We do know that if he is close, multiple teams will want him. And that list could even include the Lions, despite what Bob Quinn says.

What Kind of Market Will There Be for Andy Dalton?

February 12, 12:48 p.m. PT

Sayles: The Bengals will reportedly work with Andy Dalton on a trade, according to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, a move that’s been expected since Cincinnati landed the no. 1 pick and the chance to select its next franchise quarterback in April’s draft. But what kind of market will develop for the nine-year veteran?

Dalton’s 2019 likely did little to inspire confidence in his potential suitors. He was benched at midseason, and when he did play, he didn’t look great. In 13 starts, he posted the lowest passer rating of his career and his worst completion percentage since his rookie season. Among qualified players, he posted the third-worst QBR, finishing ahead of just Kyle Allen and Mason Rudolph, two backup quarterbacks who were thrust into starting roles after injuries to the men ahead of them.

But Dalton, whom the Bengals drafted in the second round in 2011, was playing for a first-year head coach on moribund team that lost its top wideout to a preseason ankle injury. He wasn’t great, but he may have not been the biggest problem in Cincinnati. As my colleague Robert Mays wrote in October, Dalton’s play hasn’t varied much in his career—he’s been both an MVP candidate and a punch line, but he’s essentially been the same guy all along. Dalton has typically been as good as the cast around him, and a team with a win-now roster could roll the dice on him and his $17.7 million contract for 2020 and hope for a Ryan Tannehill–like resurgence.

The question is whether any of the teams that fit that bill will need him, given the glut of starting quarterbacks set to hit the market. Philip Rivers is officially out in Los Angeles. Cam Newton and the Panthers could be headed for a divorce. Tom Brady, you may have heard, will test free agency. Any of those veteran options would offer more upside—and for teams like the Chargers and the Raiders, who are moving into new homes in September, more star wattage. Players like Teddy Bridgewater, Marcus Mariota, and possibly Jameis Winston will also be available. Each of those players has clear limitations, but they’re younger and could be a better long-term investment.

Quarterbacks including Joe Flacco and Alex Smith have moved before free agency started the past few years. They would seem to be the closest analogues for someone like Dalton—a solid, but unspectacular veteran who could offer an instant upgrade for the right team. However, it’s virtually impossible to project where he could land until we see how the rest of the QB landscape shakes out. The Bengals and Dalton are both seemingly motivated to get this done, but if the market for him never materializes, the best move may be for him to stay in Cincinnati and mentor Joe Burrow or whomever the team takes at the top of the draft.

Wait, Taysom Hill Thinks He’s a Starting Quarterback?

February 12, 12:48 p.m. PT

Heifetz: Taysom Hill did every job for the Saints except sell beer at the Superdome, but apparently he isn’t content with being a Swiss army knife for Sean Payton.

When we last saw Hill, he threw a 50-yard pass, ran four times for another 50 yards, and caught two passes for 25 yards and a touchdown against the Vikings in the wild-card round. He is a throwback to a bygone era of football and also a glimpse at its positionless future. Like anyone born in the wrong generation, he is unhappy. Hill is a free agent and apparently wants to be seen as a franchise quarterback, not just the quarterback/tight end/fullback/punt gunner he’s been for the past couple of years.

“You have to find the situation to take care of your family,” Hill told Rob Maaddi this week. “You know, I want to play quarterback in this league, and if New Orleans don’t view me that way, well, then I have to leave. So that’s really where we’re at.”

Not only is Hill a free agent, but so are the two players ahead of him on last year’s depth chart, Drew Brees and Teddy Bridgewater. Brees is expected to return for his 20th season in 2020—and if he doesn’t, he’ll likely retire instead of trying to find another team. If he stays in New Orleans, it might be hard for the Saints to retain Bridgewater. Bridgewater went 5-0 in relief of Brees in 2019, and that might make him desirable enough in free agency that the team can’t afford to pay him close to starter money to sit on their bench. Hill may not be as polished as Bridgewater, but he’ll be a hell of a lot cheaper.

While Brees and Bridgewater are unrestricted free agents, Hill is a restricted free agent. That means the Saints can offer him a roughly $3.2 million contract for 2020, and if another team wants to sign Hill at that price it’d have to send New Orleans a second-round pick. If the Saints bump Hill’s salary to $4.5 million, a team wanting to match Hill’s deal would have to send the Saints a first-round pick. It is unlikely any team would send a second-rounder for Hill, let alone a first, so if the Saints want Hill back for $3.2 million, it won’t be an issue. Meanwhile, Bridgewater could easily surpass $15 million annually for a team that sees him as a potential starter. Hill may have thoughts about where he wants to go, but it isn’t really up to him.

Hill may seem like he’s come out of nowhere, but he is already 29 years old. (He served a mission for the Mormon church from 2009 to 2011 and then spent five years at BYU, including a medical redshirt after multiple injuries.) By the time Hill could become an unrestricted free agent next offseason, he’d already be 30—the same age Cam Newton is now. The Baltimore Ravens’ creativity with Lamar Jackson makes it more feasible than ever that Hill’s skill set could be used by an NFL team. But the Ravens invested in Jackson when he was 21 years old, and it seems unlikely that any team other than New Orleans would take the same risk on the much older Hill. His best place is probably in Payton’s pocket.

Dallas Wants a Deal With Dak Done Within 28 Days

February 11, 11:22 a.m. PT

Heifetz: Weight loss, marriage pacts, NFL contract negotiations: Self-imposed deadlines rarely work, but Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and his son Stephen love a challenge. Dallas wants to sign quarterback Dak Prescott to a new contract by March 10, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. Teams don’t usually try to do this. Truncating a negotiation that usually takes a few months into a few weeks requires large concessions, and the only concessions teams like are the kinds that players give up by adhering to arbitrary team-imposed deadlines (or the kinds that fans pay for by purchasing $14 Bud Lite tallboys).

The Joneses want a deal done by March 10 because it is the deadline for teams to use the franchise tag. The franchise tag is a collectively bargained clause where teams pay a percentage of—wait, did your eyes just glaze over? Do you, like me, want to gouge out your eyes with a spoon when you hear the franchise tag explained? I’ll keep this simple. The franchise tag forces a player into a one-year contract rather than letting that player reach free agency. Normally teams love using the franchise tag because it artificially suppresses wages. But the Cowboys are not run like most other teams, and Prescott’s negotiation is not a normal situation.

Washington Redskins v Dallas Cowboys

Dak Prescott
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Jerry and Stephen have said multiple times that the team is going to sign Dak to an extension. That makes fans feel better. It makes Jerry feel better. It also makes Prescott’s agents at CAA feel better, because they can demand a lot more money. For reasons that involve math, every year Prescott puts off signing a long-term deal, the more that deal will be worth. Prescott played out the last year of his contract in 2019, a risk many players don’t like to take because of the possibility injury. But by delaying negotiations a year, Prescott probably improved his fortunes from roughly $30 million or so annually to a floor of $35 million. If Prescott plays on the franchise tag this year, it could set the floor for his long-term deal closer to $40 million annually. The Cowboys have the inverse incentive and want to get a deal done soon. That drive is further complicated because the franchise tag has some wacky rules for this 2020 offseason, allowing teams to use two tags instead of just one (we could go into the details, but make sure you have a spoon handy).

If the Cowboys get a deal done with Prescott by March 10, they could use the franchise tag on receiver Amari Cooper and cornerback Byron Jones, both of whom are also free agents. But if Dallas doesn’t reach a deal with Dak in the next four weeks, they’ll have to tag Prescott and Cooper and risk losing Jones to free agency. They’ll have to pitch Prescott on being a team player to keep the gang together, but Prescott is going to make sure they pay up for it. Last year’s negotiations with running back Ezekiel Elliott went into the season, and while Elliott emerged as nominally the highest-paid running back in football, he ultimately gave Dallas control over the next eight years of his career. Elliott parachuted into Cowboys practice from Cabo days before Week 1, but the team had already prepared for his absence. They could have proceeded with running back Tony Pollard, but nobody is pretending the Cowboys will go into 2020 without Dak. That gives Prescott far more leverage than Elliott ever dreamed of. The Dallas Cowboys, the most valuable sports franchise in the world, are experiencing an unfamiliar sensation—getting squeezed.

Mr. Williams Goes to Washington?

February 11, 11:22 a.m. PT

Heifetz: Ron Rivera is beginning his Washington coaching tenure by making amends. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Rivera and left tackle Trent Williams have “touched base,” the most neutral language in the entire workplace lexicon. But touching base is an improvement from Washington’s previous relationship with their star left tackle. Williams refused to play for Washington in 2019, forfeiting roughly $10 million in salary, because he believed Washington’s medical staff did not properly handle a cancerous growth on his head that Williams said “almost cost me my life.”

Last winter, Williams said that he did not have an issue with owner Dan Snyder, but he had sharp words for team president Bruce Allen.

“I don’t see how it can be reconciled,” Williams told reporters about his relationship with the team in December. “At the end of the day, I’m a human being. I ain’t like a dog and you can slap the shit out of me and I’m going to come back the next morning with my tail wagging. This was a conscious decision; they didn’t burn the bridge by accident. This was something they felt comfortable doing, so I got to feel comfortable with moving on, too.”

Washington fired Allen in December, a major step toward changing the team’s culture. Snyder hired Rivera to be the team’s head coach, swapping in one of the league’s least loved executives for one of the league’s most respected head coaches as the main tone-setter in the organization. Rivera will have a lot of work to cleanse Washington of its stink, but thawing the frozen relationship with Williams is the best place to start. The team needs him on the field. He is their best offensive lineman when healthy, and the team will lean on him even more if left guard Brandon Scherff leaves in free agency. As the left tackle protecting the blindside for 22-year-old quarterback Dwayne Haskins, Williams is key to Haskins’s development.

Williams may be even more important to the team off the field. Washington is a young team, which was exemplified when Haskins took a selfie with a fan while he was supposed to be on the field taking a kneel-down to end his first win as a starter. Williams is one of the few veterans on the team who has been an All-Pro on the field and a professional off of it, even when the organization was not a source of pride. How the club treats a star like Williams will resonate among the younger players. Williams worked his butt off since Washington drafted him as the no. 4 pick in 2010, and he has spent his entire career as the stalwart for an organization where change has felt constant everywhere except at the top. If the organization wants its talented young players to work their butts off, too, they’d be wise to do whatever it takes to bring Williams back.

The Chargers Are Moving on From Philip Rivers. Where Will He Go Now?

February 10, 12:38 p.m. PT

McAtee: When the Chargers moved from San Diego to Los Angeles before the 2017 season, Rivers refused to move with them. He played in L.A., sure, but he kept his home and family down south and commuted every day.

“My two biggest things were my family time and my preparation and what I owe this football team,” Rivers said in 2017. “I was not going to sacrifice either of them in any big proportion.”

This year, the quarterback finally moved—but not to Los Angeles. In January, Rivers “permanently” left San Diego for Florida, according to ESPN. That seemed to put an end to the Rivers era in Los Angeles–San Diego, and on Monday it became official: The team won’t pursue the quarterback as he hits free agency.

At the end of the regular season, Rivers said he plans “to play football” next season. The only question is where. Given his new home base and aversion to living away from his family, it would seem likely that he needs a suitor in Florida. Enter the Buccaneers.

Tampa Bay has “legitimate” interest in Rivers, per ESPN’s Jenna Laine. After another up-and-down season from Jameis Winston, the Bucs could move on from him this offseason. The 38-year-old Rivers, meanwhile, could be a stop-gap measure while Tampa Bay figures out its QB of the future. But Rivers is an up-and-down quarterback himself: He threw for 4,615 yards, but also had 20 interceptions to go with 23 touchdowns. He ranked near the bottom of the league in QBR and was 17th in PFF’s grading. He may not be totally washed yet, but he’s far from his Pro Bowl form.

While the Bucs may pursue Rivers, they could also go after a number of other quarterbacks, from the unrealistic (Tom Brady) to the intriguing (Teddy Bridgewater) to the disappointing (Winston). If Tampa Bay passes on Rivers, this may be the end of the road for him—unless he’s willing to live somewhere else.

There’s not much other chatter out there about Rivers right now—it shouldn’t be surprising that the market for a semi-washed veteran is a bit dry. But one team that makes too much sense to not bring up is the Colts. That’d require Rivers to make another move—or another ridiculous commute—but unlike Tampa Bay, Indianapolis is ready to win now, and Rivers has familiarity with the coaching staff:

Nobody Knows Anything About Tom Brady, Despite What You’ve Heard

February 10, 12:38 p.m. PT

Sayles: For a few hours this weekend, it looked like Tom Brady would be headed to Dallas, at least according to Michael Irvin.

The legendary Cowboys receiver turned NFL Network analyst popped up on WEEI’s Dale and Keefe at the end of last week to talk about conversations he had with “very significant people” during Super Bowl week about a scenario that would get Brady to Jerry World. The plan, according to Irvin, would be for the Cowboys to tender Dak Prescott, trade him, and then sign Brady.

It sounded great (and in Colin Cowherd’s eyes, it would look even better). But there was one problem: Irvin hadn’t really spoken to anyone.

It turns out that the “very significant people” weren’t Jerry or Stephen Jones, the latter of whom has said that the franchise would not jettison Prescott for a shot at Brady. Of course, that could change should the Patriots and the three-time MVP actually split up. But taken as a whole, the Brady-to-Dallas rumors highlight exactly what we know about the 42-year-old quarterback’s situation: absolutely nothing.

The content mill has linked Brady to a lot of warmer-weather cities: Los Angeles (unless the Chargers trade for Cam Newton), Las Vegas (gotta sell tickets), Tampa Bay (a “sleeping giant”!), and San Francisco (the team he rooted for as a kid, plus his last chance to screw over Jimmy Garoppolo). The Patriots, meanwhile, are reportedly ready to finally pay Brady his market rate after years of his taking discounts to help keep New England a contender. But Brady and everyone close to him are remaining tight-lipped.

Here’s what we do know: Brady is not retiring. And for the first time in his 20-year career, he is set to become a free agent. If the Patriots don’t re-sign him before the league year ends on March 17, they will incur a $13.5 million cap hit for 2020. If they do, they can spread the money out and kick the salary-cap-hell can down the road, presumably until after Brady retires.

We’ll presumably get more clarification by that deadline. Until then, get ready for a few dozen more reports from people who know for certain where Brady will land.

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