Tom Brady to the 49ers: Answering the big questions

Tom Brady, 49ers (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Tom Brady, 49ers (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

Could Tom Brady really play for the San Francisco 49ers in 2020? We dive in and answer the top questions surrounding this ever-present offseason rumor.

The San Francisco 49ers‘ heartbreaking Super Bowl loss to the Kansas City Chiefs has left fans in the Bay Area with one important question — how can the team improve enough to capture a championship?

While the franchise does have a first-round draft pick and a modest $13 million in cap space to improve their roster, they are limited in their opportunities to make a major addition.

However, one theoretical move has been the topic of speculation for most of the offseason — signing future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Tom Brady.

This move feels more like a fantasy league transaction than a legitimate real-life possibility. But could it actually be possible? Let’s answer some of the most important questions.

How could the 49ers afford Tom Brady?

There is only one realistic way for San Francisco to add Brady to their roster. They would have to move their incumbent starter Jimmy Garoppolo.

Spotrac projects Brady’s market value at a whopping $33 million in annual salary. There is simply no way to afford that kind of cap hit without removing Garoppolo’s $27.5 million deal from the books.

The deal is possible. But there is no financially-viable scenario in which the 49ers could add the six-time Super Bowl champion without parting ways with their current starter.

Would Tom Brady be interested in San Francisco?

There is no evidence that Brady is specifically targeting the Bay Area. However, there are reasons to have hope that the two would be a good fit.

For instance, Brady is a native of San Mateo, California. After decades of living in a harsh, northern climate a move back to his home state could be appealing.

The Niners are also primed for success over the next few seasons. They have a great defense and run game as well as an elite tight end.

We know that Brady is a competitor and that he isn’t looking to end his career on a sour note. If he commits to playing in 2020, he will be actively seeking his seventh championship ring.

San Francisco’s roster would give him as good a chance as any to reach that goal.

Would there be suitors willing to take on Garoppolo’s contract?

To be fair, a trade isn’t absolutely necessary. Analysts like Skip Bayless have argued that the 49ers could simply cut their starter in order to free up the necessary space.

However, this seems highly unlikely considering Garoppolo’s value.

There would almost certainly be teams that would show interest in acquiring Garoppolo. While he is not in the elite tier of signal-callers, the Eastern Illinois product has established himself as a starting-caliber player at the NFL level.

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There would likely be multiple teams interested if he were added to the trade block.

NFL legend Deion Sanders has fueled speculation that the New England Patriots may actually be an ideal landing spot for Garoppolo.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick was publicly supportive of Garoppolo during his time in New England, and was even reportedly opposed to the trade that sent him to the Bay Area.

Would Tom Brady be an upgrade?

This is the most interesting factor in this equation.

On one hand, Brady is as proven as any player in NFL history. He has a clear track record of making plays in the biggest moments. His presence would make the 49ers, who have struggled to move the ball in big moments under their current starter, feel much more capable and dangerous.

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However, the fact remains that Brady is 42-years-old. Because of his age, everything he does moving forward will make history. Would a season or two of Brady really be worth punting on the 28-year-old Garoppolo?

The numbers suggest that the two players were relatively similar in 2019. Garoppolo finished the season with a 13-3 record to go along with 3,978 yards, 27 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, and a 69.1% completion percentage.

Brady accumulated a 12-4 record, 4,057 yards, 24 touchdowns, eight interceptions, and a 60.8 percent completion percentage. While Brady’s postseason acumen cannot be discounted, the raw numbers do not heavily favor either player.

So, what should the team do?

Adding Brady would be a huge gamble for the 49ers. There is little precedent for a team dumping their quarterback after falling just a few plays short of a Lombardi Trophy the previous year.

If Brady were a few years younger, I would encourage the team to do whatever it took to maximize their championship window. However, at this stage in his career, it isn’t clear that Brady would serve as an obvious improvement over Garoppolo.

Next. 49ers: Ranking San Francisco’s top 3 offseason needs. dark

John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan would be wise to stick with their guy and attempt to make modest improvements as the franchise seeks their second consecutive Super Bowl appearance in 2020.