Tom Brady is laying low for the second consecutive offseason. Brady didn’t speak to reporters at New England Patriots organized team activities or minicamp this spring, and he didn’t address the media for the second straight year at his Best Buddies Football Challenge charity event at Harvard Stadium.
Brady, of course, is avoiding reporters because of his ongoing Deflategate drama. His four-game suspension, which was overturned last summer, was reinstated by two of three judges in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. He’s trying to get all the 2nd circuit judges to hear his case “en banc,” and if that fails, he’ll go to the Supreme Court.
On top of all of that, he’s also still the starting quarterback of the Patriots, and he didn’t seem distracted one iota in OTAs or minicamp.
He threw just one interception in the five practice sessions open to the media, and it came during the first day of minicamp when Rob Ninkovich dropped back and picked him off. Other than that, Brady was nearly perfect, completing 80.1 percent of his total passes during team drills and 79.6 percent during full-team 11-on-11s.
Granted, these sessions are unpadded and non-contact, so there’s a distinct advantage for the offense and especially the quarterback, but while other NFL teams’ beat reporters are relaying dismaying information about starting QBs, this type of near-perfection is completely standard for Brady.
And he continues to find it necessary. Despite signing Brady to a two-year contract extension this offseason, the Patriots could still have a decision to make after the 2017 season, when backup Jimmy Garoppolo, who will be 26 years old at the time, is set to hit free agency. Brady will be 40, and despite a massive cap hit, the Patriots would still save space by cutting or trading Brady at that time.
Brady has two years to prove that he is worth keeping around despite being more than 14 years Garoppolo’s senior. Given Garoppolo’s upside, with any other older quarterback, that would be a laughable proposition. But Brady proved this spring the Patriots still are much better off with him under center than with Garoppolo, who also really impressed.
In the long run, there would be some benefit for the Patriots if Brady served his four-game ban. It would allow them four games to see what exactly they have in Garoppolo as a regular-season starting quarterback. Is he so good he’s worth keeping around after his rookie contract? Is he good enough to trade but not enough to keep? Or would the Patriots have trouble shipping him away for anything of value? Regardless, they have insurance in Jacoby Brissett, their 2016 third-round pick, who also looked solid at QB this spring.
After OTAs and minicamp, Garoppolo looks good, but Brady looks better, despite undoubtedly having other matters on his mind. That Brady doesn’t appear to be slowing down at all will make the next two years very interesting for the Patriots.