Have We Overestimated Tom Brady's Real Market?

Tom Brady in what might have been his last game as a Patriot
Tom Brady in what might have been his last game as a Patriot / Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

It seems like forever ago that all anyone could seem to talk about - us included - was the ongoing circus surrounding the free agency of six-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady.

Where would he end up? Where wouldn't he end up? Even among a class of other high-profile free agents, Brady stood alone as, to quote Boston Globe writer Ben Volin, "the linchpin of the entire quarterback market". When a prospect of Brady's caliber comes on the market and you're in need of a quarterback, you have no choice but to go for it, right?

Well...maybe not.

A story of far greater significance has threatened to disrupt the league calendar and put the start of NFL free agency on hold, but it may also have given general managers and coaches a chance to ask themselves - "can we do better?" The Tennessee Titans have already come to this conclusion, per ESPN's Dianna Russini.

No, Ryan Tannehill is not Brady, and likely never will be. But "Tannehill vs. Brady" alone is not the comparison to make. Tannehill at 31 (admittedly himself in the second half of his career) with weapons such as NFL rushing leader Derrick Henry (assuming he re-ups with Tennessee) and receiver A.J. Brown is a more reliable long-term solution than a 42-year-old Brady coming off a down year.

Any team other than the Patriots that considers picking up Brady will have to consider what he can actually bring, because if they expect him to part the Red Sea and deliver them to the Super Bowl on his own, they are naive. Not even Joe Montana, as close as he came, could get Kansas City to the Super Bowl in his brief stopover there before retirement.

Montana had help from Marcus Allen. Wherever Tom Brady goes, it would need to be into a system with weapons already in place.

Consider the steep price that a team would have to pay to secure Brady. The Patriots have already offered Brady $30 million per year to stay put, and most are considering them out of the running. That may well be the salary floor for other teams looking to sign Brady, which is a bit hard to justify considering other, younger options currently on the market.

Those include, but are not limited to: Teddy Bridgewater (age 28), Jameis Winston (26), Marcus Mariota, and to a lesser extent, Philip Rivers (38). Any of them could fill Brady's spot for far longer with less risk of injury.

Look, we're not saying that Brady isn't a great quarterback. It'd be delusional to say so. He is easily up there with the greatest of all time. But there comes a point where the price is too high to pay for even the greatest.