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Tom Brady and the … Raiders? Saints? 49ers? Buccaneers? Looks like another Tom-A-Thon is coming

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Before the Las Vegas Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers failed this season, before the NFL learned about the Miami Dolphins’ adulterous flirtation with Tom Brady, before the quarterback’s high-profile divorce and FTX crypto nightmare, Dana White opened the door in an out of season microscope this will only intensify.

Tom Brady and the Las Vegas Raiders. That was the nearly missed connection the UFC president gave the world. First in August, when Brady’s best friend Rob Gronkowski convinced White to tell the quasi-story of how the MMA promoter negotiated a deal to move Brady and the All-Pro tight end to Las Vegas. Then again in December, when White appeared on ESPN’s “Manningcast” on “Monday Night Football” and repeated the story.

In a nutshell, White claims he laid the groundwork to bring Brady to the Raiders in the months leading up to the 2020 season, only to have then-coach Jon Gruden tear it apart at the last second.

As White recalled to Gronkowski on that August UFC podcast, “It was almost a done deal. And at the last minute, Gruden screwed up the deal and said he didn’t want to [Brady] and all hell broke loose, man. It was crazy. And Brady was already looking at houses. It was not yet said that Gronk would come. So Las Vegas would have Brady and Gronk the year the Bucs won the Super Bowl — except Gruden blew the deal.”

At the time White released his claim, it was a raunchy backstory that seemed to fill a much-speculated blank created by Brady when he appeared on HBO’s “The Shop” in 2021. The appearance became infamous when he complained about a mystery team passing him by before he finally signed with the Buccaneers and won a Super Bowl after the 2020 season. The essence of Brady’s complaint: the team that released him was short on a starting quarterback he clearly considered an inferior player to him.

As Brady put it succinctly, “One of the teams — and they weren’t interested in the end — I was thinking, are you going to stick with that motherfucker?”

White’s story seems to point to the team being the Raiders and the quarterback being Derek Carr. The clip gathered cobwebs until this week, when everything became relevant again in a roster move: the Raiders benching Carr for the remainder of the season and asking him to step aside. It was a clear sign that his Las Vegas era is over and the franchise will be in the market for a new quarterback in 2023.

The multiple points of relevance are not difficult to distinguish here. But let’s get past them, in what will be our first steps into another off-season Tom-A-Thon. The journey could include multiple teams, but for now, it’s worth reflecting on why Raiders make the most sense.

There are Patriots faces familiar to Brady in Las Vegas

Brady is scheduled to become a free agent this offseason. Despite turning 46 in August, he said this week that retirement is the “furthest thing” on his mind. Free agent availability and Brady appearing to leave the door open to continuing his NFL career are key pieces to that puzzle.

Josh McDaniels, his former offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots, is running Las Vegas now and will look for an experienced quarterback to turn the key on a depth chart that has significant money invested by team owner Mark Davis. The same Raiders franchise is currently slated to have nearly $62 million in salary cap space this offseason if they release or trade Carr. As it stands, that would be the third-largest amount of cap space in the NFL going into free agency. There will be plenty of money to re-sign or franchise brand run back Josh Jacobs, add Brady and add some offensive and defensive parts.

There’s the positioning of Raiders General Manager Dave Ziegler, who was a rising star on the New England staffing staff and overrode a part of Brady’s final flourish with the Patriots. Ziegler told Yahoo Sports in August that he believed establishing the right culture of focus and detailed preparation would be a big part of any success achieved in Las Vegas. Few players are more capable of helping instill that than Brady.

Dana White tried to tell us.  Tom Brady, posing for a photo with the UFC president on January 18, 2020 in Las Vegas, almost became a Raider, White has said in some interviews.  (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Dana White tried to tell us. Tom Brady, posing for a photo with the UFC president on January 18, 2020 in Las Vegas, almost became a Raider, White has said in some interviews. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

What Dana White Said to Rob Gronkowski Was Never Shot Down

Dana White’s story about Brady’s 2020 embrace of the Raiders remains undisputed, which is strongly suggestive that the quarterback felt something was appealing about the franchise three years ago. As an aside, Gronkowski confirmed on the same podcast that White’s story was “exactly what happened.” And that was all before the franchise was led by a coach Brady knows and trusts, as well as a general manager who has experience chasing the kind of talent that works best at quarterback.

Gronkowski’s inclusion in the Raiders’ 2020 equation becomes more relevant with speculation that the tight end is considering returning to the NFL for the 2023 season… potentially to play with Brady again. Even though he turns 34 in May, it’s hard to imagine a human being better suited to living in Las Vegas than Gronkowski.

Davis made a fool of himself when it came to White’s story about Brady, saying he “didn’t know” and to “talk to Dana.” This is not a state-of-the-art denial.

Again, following this line of suggestion, Davis was probably on board with the chase until Gruden allegedly exploded. And, as much as Davis has a tendency to be a frugal franchise owner (last offseason notwithstanding), he’s probably not a hard sell when it comes to imagining Brady in a Raiders uniform. (What better way to exorcise the Tuck Rule Game?)

That makes a compelling case for Brady staying in the NFL and being pursued by the Raiders. Nor is it a media creation. When you reach out to the league and ask people to organize a chase for Brady, what you hear is that the Raiders make more sense than anyone else now that Carr is out of the fold.

How are other teams considered potential landing spots for Brady?

That doesn’t mean Brady won’t have some options. Staying in Tampa is still on the table, although there is a strong indication coming from the Brady camp that doing so would require significant changes to the offensive coaching staff.

The Miami Dolphins may have been Brady’s go-to a year ago, but it seems highly unlikely with the emergence of Tua Tagovailoa (concussions aside) and the league’s tampering investigation that burned Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and stripped a pick. first-round pick in the 2023 draft.

San Francisco? Unlikely.

The New Orleans Saints? Possible, but would require a longer return of long shots from Sean Payton as head coach.

Of all those franchises, only one made the initial commitment to drop a former Pro Bowl quarterback for something different in 2023. That’s the Raiders. It’s a franchise that may not be where the off-season Tom-A-Thon ends, but it’s certainly where it begins when the Buccaneers wrap up their season.