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It will certainly be the end of an era if Tom Brady - who's set to become a free agent for the first time in his career - leaves this summer for greener pastures. The 42-year-old quarterback was mum about his future after Saturday's loss to Tennessee, which marked just the fifth time in his 18 full seasons that he failed to reach the conference championship.
Is this the end of Brady in New England? And if it is, where might he play next? Here's a breakdown of the early betting odds for the longtime Patriots pivot's future.
There are two key questions regarding Brady's future: Will he play in 2020? And will it be in a Patriots uniform?
He's 6-1 to call it quits after this season and a whopping 1-10 to play in the 2020 regular season. On Saturday, the three-time MVP seemed to indicate he'll return, saying that retiring before next season is "pretty unlikely." Brady has long indicated he intends to play until the age of 45, and he suggested an even loftier goal earlier this year.
It's also hard to imagine Brady letting the final pass attempt of his career be a pick-6 to Titans defender and ex-Patriot Logan Ryan. Unlike most props with aggressively short odds, there might even be value in laying the massive price here on what seems like a near certainty.
What about returning to New England? That's far less certain.
Oddsmakers still think the Patriots are in the lead for Brady's services, pricing New England at 1-2 to employ him in Week 1. He's 3-2 to not be on the roster in 2020, though oddsmakers are optimistic about the team's outlook if he stays:
|If Brady returns...||YES||NO|
|Win Super Bowl||12-1||1-25|
|Win 10 games (O/U)||-130||-110|
Giving the Patriots 12-1 Super Bowl odds feels a bit generous after how they looked in the latter half of this season. Still, buying that defense at decent odds - with an assurance of a returning Brady - could be enticing early. The question remains: Will he return to New England?
The future Hall of Famer was cryptic when responding about free agency on Saturday, saying only "Who knows what the future holds?" and waxing nostalgic about his time with the Patriots. That might not raise as many red flags without the reported friction within the organization for years now, including discontent from Brady about his below-market wage.
He won't be giving New England a hometown discount this summer, FOX Sports' Jay Glazer reports, and the Patriots aren't a team that will overpay for an aging star. His performance this year - Brady finished 17th in ESPN's QBR - doesn't suggest shelling out big bucks after losing in the wild-card round is wise. However, he'd certainly be worth the investment for a team looking to sell tickets, or one wanting a steady hand at quarterback to lead a ready-made roster.
Does that perfect fit exist? And would Brady leave the team that drafted him to find it?
There's no "perfect" team for Brady to sign with this summer if he decides to leave New England. Ironically, his hometown 49ers would have been an ideal spot if former Patriots backup Jimmy Garoppolo - who was being groomed as Brady's potential successor - wasn't manning the ship there.
So where might he land? Here are the early odds for where Brady could sign (not including New England), with a breakdown of five interesting possibilities:
|Los Angeles Chargers||6-1|
|Las Vegas Raiders||6-1|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||9-1|
|New Orleans Saints||16-1|
|New York Giants||20-1|
|New York Jets||20-1|
|Los Angeles Rams||25-1|
Los Angeles Chargers (6-1)
The Browns are inexplicably favored in these opening odds, but the real favorites should be the Chargers, who are picking up steam as the potential go-to spot for Brady in a post-Patriots world. They're in a major market and enviable spot for an aging superstar, they're stocked with receiving talent, and they're less than 400 miles from Brady's hometown of San Mateo, California.
The move also makes sense for the Bolts, a team in need of a new quarterback if the Philip Rivers era is over. The club is desperate to sell tickets as it moves into a new stadium in Inglewood, too. Who better to put butts in seats than the GOAT? This is a bet worth making.
Indianapolis Colts (8-1)
From a pure football perspective, this makes a ton of sense. The Colts' offensive line is more talented than arguably any Brady has played behind in his illustrious career, and Frank Reich's quick-read offense has maximized the talents of Nick Foles and Jacoby Brissett. Insert Brady, the best quick-read thrower in NFL history, and Indianapolis could emerge as a contender.
Off the field, though, it's a tougher sell. Indianapolis isn't, say, New York or Los Angeles, and Brady might prefer a glamorous market after two decades in Foxborough. It's also a questionable legacy play to spend his final years in Peyton Manning's backyard. However, if Brady only cares about rings, the Colts are a legitimate dark-horse candidate.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-1)
Brady has spent years turning people like you and me into 1,000-yard receivers. Can you imagine what he could do with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin? Tampa Bay is the dream location for any free-agent quarterback this offseason if the Bucs move on from Jameis Winston, and a field general of Brady's ilk could be the perfect palate cleanser after the Winston years.
Any coach is going to be a step down after years with Belichick, but Brady could do worse than spending his career twilight under Bruce Arians, whose previous quality quarterback work could be appealing to the 42-year-old passer. A swan song by the bay also isn't a bad draw.
Miami Dolphins (14-1)
How awesome would this be? Brady signs with the Dolphins, who foiled the Patriots' chances of getting a first-round bye this season, and proceeds to snap New England's epic streak of 11 straight AFC East division titles with a team many called the worst of all time to start 2019.
Brady is familiar with Dolphins head coach and former Patriots assistant Brian Flores, and the club possesses plenty of valuable assets to flip for potential impact players.
Miami is one of the NFL's best destination cities, and Brady could lead an iconic franchise to its first Super Bowl victory since the legendary teams of the '70s. It's not the wildest thing you've ever heard.
Chicago Bears (16-1)
If his legacy drives Brady's next move, it's hard to do better than reviving the Bears, one of the league's most storied franchises. They would also be a good football fit, with Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Trey Burton, and Tarik Cohen as viable receiving options in a dynamic offense.
Bears head coach Matt Nagy also did remarkable work with former Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith when the two were in Kansas City after many had written off the veteran due to perceived athletic limitations. Nagy has even coaxed a six-touchdown game from Mitchell Trubisky, so picture what he could do with Brady at the helm. The Bears should be higher on the board.
Brady isn't the only Patriots great who might end the dynasty. Oddsmakers say there's a chance Belichick could retire after 25 seasons as a head coach, including the last 20 in New England. He's 7-1 to walk away before the 2020 season and 1-15 to return.
We had this same conversation after last season, and Belichick returned with relatively little fanfare. It made sense then following a Super Bowl victory, and now it'd be a stunner for him to leave after a wild-card loss with a possible chance to finally prove himself post-Brady.
These odds would be a lot more interesting if they were about Belichick coaching the Patriots or leaving for another team, which could be a sneaky subplot if he sees cracks in the franchise's veneer. But retiring? Don't buy it.
C Jackson Cowart is a betting writer for theScore. He's an award-winning journalist with stops at The Charlotte Observer, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Times Herald-Record, and BetChicago. He's also a proud graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, and his love of sweet tea is rivaled only by that of a juicy prop bet. Find him on Twitter @CJacksonCowart.