Tom Brady hasn’t outright criticized any of the Patriots’ personnel decisions this year. But he hasn’t been hard to read, either. Brady has been given every opportunity to say nice things about his teammates, and instead he just acts kind of mopey about the state of the offense right now.
He didn’t appear thrilled that Antonio Brown was taken away from him. Nor did he seem pleased that Bill Belichick released tight end Ben Watson this week. And Brady is not exactly brimming with confidence in the youngsters the Patriots have given him at receiver and tight end (Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski, Matt LaCosse, and Ryan Izzo).
“I’m the quarterback, so I don’t make those decisions,” Brady said Tuesday, repeating an answer he gave after Brown’s release last month. “Whoever’s out there, that’s who I’ve got to play with.”
But someone came up with an interesting suggestion Wednesday morning that could turn Brady’s frown upside-down. The idea came from, of all people, Antonio Brown.
“If you guys follow the Patriots, tell them call me,” Brown said between workouts on an Instagram Live video. “They still got to pay me, might as well let me earn it.”
Brown could be right about that last part. He reportedly has filed grievances through the NFL Players Association seeking payment of his $9 million signing bonus from the Patriots, and the collective bargaining agreement is pretty clearly in his favor. The grievance isn’t going to be resolved until next spring, but Brown is almost certainly going to win.
Despite how upset Brown was that the Patriots released him, he apparently wants to come back and catch touchdown passes from Brady.
It has to be tempting for the Patriots.
And maybe not as crazy as it would have sounded when the Patriots released Brown after just 11 official days with the team. He was let go after his former trainer filed a sexual assault lawsuit against him in federal court in Florida, and after he allegedly sent threatening text messages to a female artist who in a Sports Illustrated article accused him of sexual assault.
Here’s betting Brady would take Brown back. Brady didn’t seem like he wanted the Patriots to release Brown in the first place. Now Julian Edelman, Rex Burkhead, and Phillip Dorsett are banged up, the tight ends are young and still learning, Josh Gordon is inconsistent, and James Develin is out. The offense struggled all day in Buffalo in Week 4, and in the first half in Washington last Sunday.
I think Belichick probably would take Brown back, too. It didn’t seem like he wanted to release Brown, either. Belichick let Brown practice with the team and take all of the first-team reps several hours after Sports Illustrated published its story on the threatening text messages. Belichick let his assistant coaches speak highly of Brown that same day, as well.
Belichick might have to give Brown the condition that he could rejoin the team only if he throws his cellphone into the Charles River. But Belichick is well aware that the Patriots need another weapon on offense, whether it’s at receiver or tight end. The trade deadline is in three weeks, and the Patriots should be active.
The only major roadblock to an AB reunion seems to be Robert Kraft, who eventually succumbed to public pressure in releasing Brown. The relationship appeared to be permanently severed when Brown not-so-subtly referenced Kraft’s embarrassing prostitution dust-up on Twitter after being released.
But if Kraft can swallow his pride, Brown could be the difference between winning and losing a seventh Super Bowl. With Brown, 19-0 might even be on the table.
The drawback to rehiring Brown, of course, is all of the off-field noise, which has died down since the Patriots released him. The former trainer quietly withdrew her federal lawsuit, and instead is going to refile it in Florida state court. Either way, the case remains a matter of he said/she said, and won’t be resolved for a long time.
The controversy with the female artist and the threatening text messages has died down, as well. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell hasn’t placed Brown on the exempt list, so Brown currently is in good standing with the league, though its investigation is ongoing.
The salary cap is an issue, since the Patriots are so tight on space. Perhaps they could sign Brown to a minimum contract, then promise to pay him the $9 million he is grieving next spring.
The Patriots surely would take a lot of heat from fans and media. But it’s nothing they didn’t deal with the first time.
Meanwhile, Brown has been training every day in Miami, working out at high schools and making it clear on social media that he wants to keep playing football.
“The best receiver right now is at home in Miami,” he said on his video. “I’m going to do everything I can to get back.”
Brown wants back in. The Patriots need a playmaker. And they’re going to pay him, anyway.
It has to be tempting.