Find line reports, best bets, and subscribe to push notifications in the Betting News section.
New England is no longer in the driver's seat to retain Tom Brady's services.
That's according to the latest odds from bookmakers, who priced the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-150) as short favorites to sign Brady away from the Patriots (+110). Those two teams are the clear betting front-runners ahead of Wednesday's official start to NFL free agency.
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||-150|
|New England Patriots||+110|
|Los Angeles Chargers||+600|
|San Francisco 49ers||+1000|
|Las Vegas Raiders||+1200|
Those odds appear to follow Sunday's report that Brady is deciding between Tampa Bay and New England. Brady's preferred destination is apparently San Francisco, but the 49ers will reportedly stick with starter (and former Brady backup) Jimmy Garoppolo.
The Titans were seen as the biggest threats to the Patriots just last week, but Sunday's contract extension with Ryan Tannehill effectively removes Tennessee from contention. Is it really a two-team race for the 42-year-old quarterback? And if so, is there value on either one?
We've highlighted the Buccaneers as dark-horse contenders for Brady since early January, but a string of recent free-agent decisions and reports have fueled Tampa Bay's rise to betting favorite.
On Monday, the Buccaneers placed the franchise tag on Shaquil Barrett, allowing quarterback Jameis Winston to hit the market with no restrictions. Even with Winston's volatile play, it's rare to see a team give up control on a multi-year starting quarterback without some sort of contingency plan in place. Could Brady be that plan?
It was reported last week that Brady seeks some control over roster-building and play-calling decisions - and that Tampa Bay is willing to oblige. The quarterback has also long been rumored to desire better weapons in the passing game; the Buccaneers boast arguably the best receiving corps on the market, if not in the entire league.
It adds up to an attractive package for Brady, whom Tampa Bay is "all-in" on signing, according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. When you consider the financial and geographic benefits of living in Florida, it's hard to imagine a more appealing new home.
In a normal offseason, Tampa Bay might be a bigger favorite to sign Brady. But the Patriots always seem to benefit from the unexpected.
Firstly, Saturday's passage of the new CBA means the NFL will no longer be operating in the "Final League Year," which was scheduled for 2020. Among many things, it means teams are once again allowed to structure contracts with more than a 30% yearly salary increase in seasons beyond 2020. That helps the Patriots, who have limited cap space this summer but can now backload deals for Brady and their other free agents.
The lack of free-agent visits due to the coronavirus outbreak also plays a role. If Brady's going to leave the team he led to six Super Bowls, you'd think it'll take more than a Skype call and an over-the-phone sales pitch to close the deal. In times of unease, comfort is often the simplest choice.
It's also the choice many NFL executives expect Brady to make, according to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, who said the signal-caller is perceived to be "slow-playing" the process to force New England to improve his supporting cast. Considering the calculated approach Brady has taken throughout his career, that wouldn't be a surprise.
Remember when Brady's agent met with three teams - the Raiders, Colts, and Chargers - that were seen as the only viable threats to New England? That was two weeks ago. Then the Titans become the front-runners. Then the Niners emerged. Now the Bucs are the odds-on favorites.
We've seen this story play out so many times that it's hard to know what to take seriously. Maybe Tampa Bay really is the favorite. Or maybe Brady goes back to New England. The only consistent name among the outside options has been Los Angeles, which NFL Network's Ian Rapoport mentioned alongside the Bucs and Pats on Monday.
It's worth taking a small shot on the Bolts (+600) and Colts (+1800), knowing the entire board could look different a few days from now.
C Jackson Cowart is a betting writer for theScore. He's an award-winning journalist with stops at The Charlotte Observer, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Times Herald-Record, and BetChicago. He's also a proud graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, and his love of sweet tea is rivaled only by that of a juicy prop bet. Find him on Twitter @CJacksonCowart.