At 42, the end is near for Tom Brady, though the quarterback insists he can still play until he's at least 45. His announcement on Tuesday that he will leave the New England Patriots after 20 seasons and a record six Super Bowl titles gives rise to the biggest question in the NFL: where will Brady line up in 2020? (Note: this article was originally published on 8 January 2020 but has been updated to reflect Brady's decision to leave New England).
Why he should go It's hard to find a better batch of weapons, with a quarterback opening, than in Carolina. The Panthers have the players but need a healthy quarterback: Cam Newton has been unable to stay on the field in recent years, and Carolina are ready to move on. Owner David Tepper is ambitious, and he will do whatever is needed to add Brady and to surround the quarterback with the talent - on and off-the-field - to compete right away. Adding Brady would give the Panthers a chance to chase a long-term fix in the draft while riding out the final two years of a legend's career, forever associating themselves with the best to ever do it. And they wouldn't have to sink franchise money into Newton for the next four-to-five years.
Why he shouldn't Going to a new organization is hard, even for the greatest players. This made more sense before the Panthers hired ex-college coach Matt Rhule to a mega-money deal. Had Josh McDaniels come, he and Brady could have lifted the Patriots blueprint and dropped it in Carolina. Now, Brady would be working with a first-time NFL head coach - though he may see that as a bonus: giving him complete control over the offense.
Likelihood of deal Not impossible
Why he should go LA are the sexiest pick. The Chargers will be entering a new stadium in 2020 as the little sibling in a partnership with the Rams. Grabbing Brady would give them much-needed oomph, and would steal some of the attention away from the Rams, who seem to have a vice-like grip on LA fandom.
The Chargers have the weapons, too. They legitimately run seven deep with good skill position players, of all body shapes and sizes. They should have one of the most diverse, complete offenses in the game, and they have similar talent on defense. They are built to compete now, and play in Brady's home state. Also, those powder blue uniforms. I mean, come on. They're the best in football.
Why he shouldn't Sure, the Chargers have the weapons, but their issues in recent years have stemmed from an awful offensive line. They've poured in resources, but due to injuries and draft/free agency misses nothing has improved.
In the last two years, the Patriots have finished first and third in offensive pressure rate, averaging a quarterback pressure on 23% of Brady's snaps. The Chargers, by comparison, have given up pressure on 31% of snaps, putting them 28th in the league over that span. Does Brady, who turns 43 in August, want to take that level of punishment at his age?
Likelihood of deal The most likely spot at the moment
Why he should go Tampa have a host of weapons - Mike Evans is one of the league's best receivers - a solid if unspectacular offensive line and a proven coach, one who has thrived with aging, veteran quarterbacks.
Why he shouldn't It's an iffy fit. Bruce Arians is a vertical coach. He likes to chuck the ball downfield, run the ball, then chuck it down the field some more. That's not Brady's game.
Likelihood of deal Least likely of the frontrunners
Las Vegas Raiders
Why he should go A first-time NFL city and a sparklingly new $1.8bn stadium. A name-brand coach in Jon Gruden. And there's the speculation Brady reportedly bought property in Las Vegas and was seen glad-handing with Raiders owner Mark Davis at Conor McGregor's last fight on the Strip.
Why he shouldn't The owner is, shall we say, eccentric and the franchise's well-documented reputation for dysfunction is earned. A move to Vegas could easily veer into a sideshow with all the attention on off-field extracurriculars. And while Brady has become accustomed to a life of superstar glare out of necessity, he doesn't exactly welcome it.
Likelihood of deal A roll of the dice