NFL rumors: New dark horse emerges for Patriots’ Tom Brady, and it could lead to a blockbuster trade

Another day, another update on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who will be a free agent this month following 20 seasons in New England.

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NBC Sports’ Tom Curran appeared Tuesday on Mad Dog Radio with the latest on who are the leading contenders to sign the six-time Super Bowl champion.

“It’s either going to be New England or Tennessee with the 49ers closing hard on the outside. … What’s interesting about that is the Patriots sent Jimmy Garoppolo out there for such short collateral, that could (Bill) Belichick say ‘Hey, why don’t you just sign this guy when he becomes available for two years. I’ll take Jimmy back. He’ll get you the Super Bowl you probably could’ve had this year if you had Brady and we’ll start fresh.’ It would be interesting to me to find out whether or not that had happened because I think, I think that the Niners can release Jimmy Garoppolo outright and suffer no consequences.”

Garoppolo and the 49ers lost Super Bowl LIV to the Kansas City Chiefs, 31-20. Garopppolo, of course, once was Brady’s understudy, having been drafted by the Patriots in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Belichick saw Garoppolo as Brady’s eventual successor.

In New England, Garoppolo won a pair of Super Bowls backing up Brady, and even got a shot at starting in 2016 while Brady served a four-game suspension for Deflategate. However, with Brady’s career extending into uncharted territory, Belichick traded Garoppolo to the 49ers in 2017 in exchange for the No. 43 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

While the Patriots would make two more Super Bowl appearances after dealing Garoppolo, winning Super Bowl LIII last year, New England has a potential QB controversy on its hands. Brady, now 42 years old, will be a free agent this month and wants to test the open market. If Brady leaves, Belichick will be left without a clear No. 1 quarterback for the first time in two decades. But Curran thinks the Patriots would be on board with Garoppolo returning to New England. “Yes. So would (Josh) McDaniels, I think. that would be the best-case scenario all the way around.”

Brady going to the 49ers would have him playing for the team he grew up idolizing. His favorite player, Joe Montana, was a four-time Super Bowl champion and generally recognized as the G.O.A.T. until Brady came along.

Montana, for what it’s worth, joined fellow Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks Joe Namath and John Elway in saying Brady’s best move in free agency would be to re-sign with the Patriots.

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Mike Rosenstein may be reached at mrosenstein@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @rosenstein73. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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