Try to picture Tom Brady wearing a powder-blue or bright-orange throwback jersey.
Actually, that strange vision could become a reality this season because the Chargers and Buccaneers emerged Monday as the main threats to break up the Patriots dynasty as NFL free agency got underway.
Brady waited 20 years to find out what he is worth to other NFL teams, and he certainly isn’t in a rush to wrap up his first and (maybe only) venture into the open market.
Or maybe the rest of the NFL isn’t in a rush to sign the 43-year-old Greatest of All Time? Is that possible?
After winning six Super Bowls and three MVPs with the Patriots, Brady became available to talk to all suitors when the legal tampering period began at noon Monday. Free agents can re-sign with their current teams or agree to terms with a new team but cannot officially change teams until 4 p.m. Wednesday.
None of the other top free-agent quarterbacks — Philip Rivers, Teddy Bridgewater, Drew Brees and Jameis Winston — agreed to terms anywhere in the first hours of negotiating, either. Nick Foles (Jaguars), Andy Dalton (Bengals), Joe Flacco (Broncos) and Derek Carr (Raiders) are quarterbacks said to be available by trade.
But it appears as if the rest of the NFL is waiting to see what happens with Brady.
NFL Network reported the Buccaneers made known their “intentions to Tom Brady loud and clear,” and ESPN reported the Bucs made an “aggressive initial offer.” The idea of Brady joining a coach in Bruce Arians who likes his gunslingers and an elite receiver in Mike Evans is drawing intrigue around the NFL.
The Buccaneers retained their top two pass-rushers — Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul — Monday in an attempt to look like a win-now team and are a logical landing spot for free-agent running back Melvin Gordon.
But Tampa Bay is not as sexy of a celebrity destination city as Los Angeles, Las Vegas or Miami, and the Buccaneers certainly are not on the cusp of a Super Bowl like the Titans and 49ers, both of whom pulled out of the Brady sweepstakes on Sunday by recommitting to their incumbent quarterbacks.
NBCSports reported Brady, who grew up as a Joe Montana fan in northern California, had his eyes set on the 49ers. In an ironic twist, Brady’s former Patriots backup, Jimmy Garoppolo, is entrenched with the 49ers.
The Chargers hold the No. 6 pick in the draft and are looking at quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert and Jordan Love to replace the 16-year veteran Rivers. But the Chargers have a team capable of winning now despite last year’s 5-11 record and a new stadium to fill as secondary hosts to the Rams.
It all could lead Brady back to the Patriots, who are not actively moving on as much as granting Brady’s wish to be courted. Perhaps Brady expected a more robust market when he struck an agreement last offseason that he could not be franchise tagged by the Patriots.
If Brady really wants to throw a curveball at the NFL, he could check in with the Colts, most often paired with Rivers in free agency.
The Colts, led by Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck over the years, are a longtime rival of Brady’s and the team that reported him in Deflategate, leading to his four-game suspension in 2016.