Tom Brady is done.
Even with a 40-day trial run last year, it still doesn’t seem real.
But for teams desperately in need of a quarterback, a harsh reality is setting in now that the most accomplished winner in NFL history has retired for a second time. Before Brady’s Tuesday morning announcement, team executives polled by The Athletic were unanimously convinced the 45-year-old would continue playing, and they agreed the Raiders seemed to be the most likely destination.
Not anymore — not unless Brady secretly has the sadistic goal of eclipsing Michael Jordan’s retirement record after already surpassing him as the greatest champion of the modern era.
The veteran quarterback market is thin, and the teams that need one will be fiercely competitive this offseason, potentially to the point where they’re stressing budgets to fill the most important position on the field.
The league’s attention continues to focus on Aaron Rodgers, who is still deciding whether he wants to keep playing before the quarterback and the Packers subsequently determine whether it should be in Green Bay. The Packers would incur a massive cap hit if they trade Rodgers — the extent of which could be manipulated in a variety of ways — but they’d be ripping off the Band-Aid, resetting for a season and building around Jordan Love and the added draft capital netted from the Rodgers trade.
If the Packers do favor Love, the Jets are viewed among the favorites to trade for Rodgers. They hired offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett last week, and the Rodgers-Hackett connection has been covered extensively. The Jets have been open about trying to find a veteran starter to give 2021 No. 2 pick Zach Wilson a chance to recalibrate on the bench, but the team is also still working to prioritize its list of targets.
With Brady out of the picture, Rodgers is peerless on the top tier of “available” quarterbacks. Jimmy Garoppolo and Derek Carr would be next in line, and opinions vary on whether Daniel Jones also belongs with that pairing.