MIAMI – Super Bowl LIV, a game that won’t include the New England Patriots for the first time in four years, is three days away. However as the biggest NFL matchup of the season approaches, four-time Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady seemed to send a reminder that the league’s pre-eminent story of 2020 could be his potential departure from Foxborough.
Brady tweeted a cryptic picture Thursday evening, one that appears (also on Instagram) to depict him in shadow walking alone from a tunnel into (or out of) an empty Gillette Stadium.
What does it mean? Tough to say given Brady’s tweet was devoid of words. Reporters and fans are sure to parse it for days and maybe weeks as the 20-year veteran, barring an unexpected extension, prepares to enter free agency for the first time.
ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter later tweeted: “Am told that this tweet is not related to Tom Brady’s football future. Repeat, not related to his football future. But the speculation sure is fun.”
Members of Boston’s media corps have been asking players and analysts during Super Bowl week about what they believe Brady’s future holds as the Patriots face atypical uncertainty that could end with dynastic upheaval. His current contract will void in March and stipulates that New England cannot place the franchise or transition tag on him.
Conjecture has already swelled regarding alternate destinations for Brady, one being the Chargers – who play in his native California, need a marquee drawing card as they move into their sparkling new Inglewood Stadium and have seen longtime starter and fellow free-agent-to-be Philip Rivers move his family across the country to Florida amid his own murky football future.
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Former 49ers quarterback Joe Montana, who spent the final two years of his legendary career with the Chiefs, recently told NFL Media when asked if he had advice for TB12: “It’s not easy to go to another team and get accepted, no matter how much success you’ve had and how many years you’ve played.
“Don’t (leave) – if you don’t have to. It’s a process to go through, and it takes time to get used to the team.
“I just can’t see how (the Patriots) would let him leave there, myself.”
But that’s the rub. Brady seems to hold most of the cards as it pertains to his professional future, one he’s apparently ready to tease ahead of what could be one of the wildest offseasons in recent memory.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.
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