Expect signals to get real this week in Tom Brady, Bill Belichick face-off


After 20 seasons with the New England Patriots, Tom Brady is set to become an unrestricted free agent on March 18. Maybe you’ve heard. Or maybe you’ve heard so much about it that you can’t possibly stand to hear anything else about it – make a decision … please.

Consider that we’ve descended into:

  • Had Ben Affleck offer updates as a Brady insider/reporter while promoting a movie. (had no news)

  • Freaked out over who Brady spoke to Octagon-side of a UFC fight in Las Vegas. (Raiders owner Mark Davis)

  • Hearing that Brady and his wife, Gisele Bundchen, have purchased property in almost every NFL market, some of which was true. (what’s the commute time between Greenwich, Connecticut and East Rutherford, New Jersey?)

  • Had UFC president Dana White say team owner Robert Kraft got mad at him when a camera caught him expressing to Brady the positives about Vegas. (White, a Patriots fan, said the full conversation would have first shown him trying to get Brady to stay)

  • And, maybe best of all, been tricked by a potentially passive-aggressive Brady Instagram post that turned out to be a preview of a Hulu Super Bowl commercial.

And this is a partial list.

Even though free agency doesn't officially start until March 18, this week will go a long way in determining if the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick marriage will continue in New England. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Even though free agency doesn't officially start until March 18, this week will go a long way in determining if the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick marriage will continue in New England. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Well, good news. March 18 is next week, which means this should be the week New England makes known its interest in keeping Brady in Foxborough until he retires.

Officially it can wait and try to bid against other teams on the open market. That wouldn’t make much sense. This week is what makes sense.

Brady has been clear that he wants to return to the Patriots.

“I love playing for this team,” Brady said. “I’ve loved playing for this team for two decades and winning a lot of games.”

The decision is Brady’s to make. If he 100 percent wanted to leave New England, then he’d be gone. He’s still there. For now. So it’s up to the Patriots to make the kind of offer that will make Brady, who for much of his recent career has taken team-friendly discounts, feel appreciated.

If New England makes that kind of an outreach this week, and he and coach Bill Belichick have a fruitful conversation about the next season or three, then it stands to reason that Brady will simply sign with the Pats. In that case, this winter of breathless (and ridiculous) speculation was for nothing except talk show ratings and internet clicks.

Belichick, of course, has moved slowly here. This may make little sense to most, but this is how he has run the Patriots for decades. No one player is more important than another – even Tom Brady.

By treating Brady like any other personnel decision, Belichick is not just flexing his power in the relationship, but reaffirming his view of how football operations needs to work.

“Certainly, Tom’s an iconic figure in this organization,” Belichick said in January, the day after a playoff loss to Tennessee where he wouldn’t commit to any course of action, any timeline for action or pretty much anything else. “Nobody respects Tom more than I do.”

However ...

“I respect all the other players and all the other coaches in this organization too,” Belichick said. “Everybody who is a part of it is an important part of it. I want to give the proper attention and communication and detail and thought on my input into those decisions.”

Belichick has held true to his word. Communication between the camps has reportedly been sparse – and last week a conversation between Belichick and Brady supposedly “didn’t go well,” according to the Boston Herald.

That was last week. This is the week that matters. Brady hasn’t walked away yet. All the fight night meetings and public FaceTimes haven’t meant anything.

If Belichick wants Tom Brady – the way Kraft wants Brady – then this is the week the old curmudgeon will shift gears and make it happen.

If he doesn’t, then it won’t.

That insight is obvious, but it bears repeating if only to remind that despite all the high-profile twists and turns in the saga of where a six-time Super Bowl champion QB will play next season, nothing has really happened yet. This is still the start because Belichick is still getting started.

Can he do enough to keep the greatest Patriot ever in Foxborough? Or will he let Brady enter a wild free agent derby that has numerous franchises taking a swing at him?

New England’s advantage ends next week. Belichick is never one to give such a thing up. So here comes the most important week – the first important week, really – of Tom Brady’s future.

More from Yahoo Sports: