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From the outside looking in, the signing of Tom Brady with the Bucs seemed pretty seamless. He was never rumored to be close to a contract with another team, and the number of heavily-interested suitors seemed limited.

But according to ESPN’s Jeff Darlington, Brady almost ended up elsewhere in the NFC South during free agency in 2020. Speaking on the network’s Get Up show on Wednesday morning, Darlington had this to say:

“I think think that people still underestimate how close Tom Brady was to signing with the New Orleans Saints,” Darlington said. “It was up until he ultimately decided on the Bucs. I know that is going to be a statement that people try to question, but it’s the truth.

“And here’s the deal. Sean Payton cannot look back and say, ‘Man, I would have loved to have Tom Brady last year’. Because that would also have meant he’d have him for a few more years moving forward. No question in my mind, the Saints, despite understanding they did what they had to do, there is a little bit of – let’s call it regret – that Tom Brady is not their quarterback.”

Wow. We knew the Saints had maybe inquired about Brady, but Darlington’s report makes it sound like they were one of the few strong contenders for Brady’s services. It’s not hard to envision the Saints as Super Bowl champions if they had signed Brady. Especially when you consider the Bucs wouldn’t have been in their way.

For those who question Darlington’s report, it’s important to remember he was the first major network reporter to predict Tom Brady would leave New England. He’s been very dialed into all situations surrounding Brady’s free agency.

Brady Almost A Raider?

Darlington also mentioned another team that nearly signed Brady away in the Las Vegas Raiders.

“There were several teams that were in the hunt and did back out,” Darlington said. “I’ll point out a perfect example here: the Las Vegas Raiders. They were a team that was heavily interested in Brady. They were having internal discussions up until the late stages. And they did back away, ultimately, from Brady.”

The entire conversation on Get Up was based around Brady’s recent comments on a preview for HBO’s The Show Uninterrupted. During the clip, the quarterback claims disbelief that a team courting him in free agency decided to stick with their current starter instead.

Based on Darlington’s reporting, it sounds like more than just Tampa Bay’s talent attracted Brady to the franchise. The Bucs apparently made it clear from the outset that they were all in on the star quarterback, while other suitors were less direct.

“I should also point out, the Tampa Bay Bucs were in from the very beginning,” Darlington said. “Now mind you they felt ready to move on from Jameis Winston. They felt like they really didn’t want to pay him what he was probably going to [cost]. Look, they decided to move on, and they went headfirst into Tom Brady. They never wavered, they never changed. They told him ‘we want you!’. Tom Brady loved that about the Tampa Bay Bucs. The rest is history.”

Yes, yes it is. Sweet Super Bowl history.

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About the Author: Jon Ledyard

Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft
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BucNnole
BucNnole(@bucnnole)
5 months ago

I call bullshit. These talking heads on ESPN will say anything.

Runole
Runole(@runole)
Reply to  BucNnole
5 months ago

AGREE! To suggest that Brady would go to sit on the bench at “KATRINA” city is utter nonsense,

EricNV
EricNV(@ericnv)
Reply to  BucNnole
5 months ago

Ditto. The Saints almost used Brady to force Brees into retirement early. Don’t think so. I’d believe the Raiders interest, not New Orleans

aredsoxfan1
aredsoxfan1(@aredsoxfan1)
Reply to  EricNV
5 months ago

To those that don’t believe Darlington, he has long been dead on when it comes to Brady. Also remember that Drew Brees had not yet made up his mind on retirement at the time of Brady’s free agency. Obviously it was only going to work in New Orleans if Brees was retiring because I don’t think Brees was coming back to sit on the bench and it’s quite obvious who the better QB was.

toofamiliar17
toofamiliar17(@toofamiliar17)
Reply to  aredsoxfan1
5 months ago

I think that’s what people are missing here – the details that make this very believable. In February – early March of last year, the prevailing opinion was that Brees was probably done. At best, it was maybe a coin flip. Of COURSE the Saints were having internal discussion about signing Brady. What other move could possibly have made more sense had Brees retired? There isn’t one.

drdneast
drdneast(@drdneast)
5 months ago

Brady would have been jumping out of the frying pan into the fire with the Saints. Saints had the same problem as the PATs, a small selection of quality WRs and TE’s to throw to. I still doubt the story though since Brees was still on the team. What were they going to do with over $55 million n cap money designated to the QB position.

BucNnole
BucNnole(@bucnnole)
Reply to  drdneast
5 months ago

Exactly. Could not have said it better.

toofamiliar17
toofamiliar17(@toofamiliar17)
Reply to  drdneast
5 months ago

Had Brees retired (which was extremely possible pre-free agency last offseason, how quickly so many seem to forget), he would have done what he did this year prior to doing so – agreed to reduce his salary to the league minimum, then waited until the right time of year to send in his retirement paperwork so as to enable the Saints to spread his dead cap hit over 2 seasons instead of one. And their WR situation this time last year was eons better than what Brady had in NE. Michael Thomas, the newly signed Emmanuel Sanders, the aging but… Read more »

Iowabucfan
Iowabucfan(@iabucfan)
5 months ago

I agree with all of the below. I also call bs on espn “report”. This is the dead period in the NFL calendar. They have to talk about something.

Last edited 5 months ago by Iowabucfan
fredster
fredster(@fredster)
5 months ago

I don’t doubt one minute he talked to Raiders and Saints extensively but that doesn’t mean he almost signed with them. Lol. Could of would of should of anyways who cares really.

Runole
Runole(@runole)
5 months ago

fantasy speculation. Espn will say anything to get clicks

BucHarbour
BucHarbour(@bucharbour)
5 months ago

I’ll add to the chorus of of calling this BS. The Bucs were one of a couple teams that he apparently had interest in that had a lot of talent on offense. To be honest, I have a feeling he was targeting the Bucs first and foremost, but probably wanted to see if any others had some interest and what kind of money they were talking about. I really don’t see how the Saints, especially with the cap situation they were in, had any chance at Brady.

toofamiliar17
toofamiliar17(@toofamiliar17)
Reply to  BucHarbour
5 months ago

It’s very simple – had Brees retired (which was very possible at the time), he would have done what he did this year – reduced his base salary to the league minimum to save the team a ton of money, then not filed his retirement papers until the appropriate date so that they could have spread his dead cap hit out over multiple seasons. Very simple accounting stuff in the NFL today.

Runole
Runole(@runole)
Reply to  toofamiliar17
5 months ago

Baloney ! If “IF’s and Buts were honey and nuts” what a merry Christmas it would be lol
Could you please link an article at the time Brady began his quest to leave stating Brees was going to retire 2019 early 2020. I will stand corrected.

BucHarbour
BucHarbour(@bucharbour)
Reply to  toofamiliar17
5 months ago

I think you underestimate the cap issues they had. They didn’t have, nor could they free up, that much money without a lot of work. And most people felt Brees was going to play one more year.

PissedOffBuc1988
PissedOffBuc1988(@buclover1988)
5 months ago

Yawn. ESPN sucks major butt cheeks. I haven’t visited the site in well over 3 years now and I’m perfectly fine. In fact, I consider them on the low end of sports news. Outside of NFL primetime, MLB tonight, and the NFL draft, they have nothing of value to offer sports enthusiasts.

aredsoxfan1
aredsoxfan1(@aredsoxfan1)
5 months ago

I disagree with the consensus. I agree ESPN sux and most of the guys on there don’t know chit. However, for many years Darlington has had the inside scoop on Brady and typically what he puts out about Brady is found to be true. For that reason I believe it.

TBChucky
TBChucky(@tbchucky)
5 months ago

I actually think this could’ve happened. But in the end I believe the Bucs making such an early commitment to Brady, and him liking all the weapons the Bucs had on offense likely swayed his decision. Luckily for us Bucs fans!! Brady also likes to challenge himself. What better way to do so than turn around a talented but perennial losing team around in the midst of a highly reduced offseason? He knew the offense could reach new heights if he didn’t turn the ball over at an alarming rate, and the line would give him enough time more often… Read more »

German Buc
German Buc(@german-buc)
5 months ago

OK, it’s click bait and I snapped at it – but NEVER EVER! Just watch the meeting between TB and Brees after the Divisional round and you know for sure, Brady won’t refer to Bress as ‘MF’ at all!

scubog
scubog(@scubog)
Reply to  German Buc
5 months ago

That was my first thought German. Tom would never disrespect Drew Brees like that.

Everybody has a “scoop”. So does my cat’s litter box.

cobraboy
cobraboy(@cobraboy)
5 months ago

Not sure I believe any of that.

To think the Saints would dump Brees against his will is foolish.

Runole
Runole(@runole)
Reply to  cobraboy
5 months ago

agree!

cobraboy
cobraboy(@cobraboy)
5 months ago

Also: Brady would *NEVER* call Brees a m’f’r.

Mb Nfl Double Your First Deposit Football Team Vs Bucs Pewter 728x90 Jpg