The NFL Scouting Combine isn't just the main hub for evaluating the top prospects in the NFL Draft. It also serves as a rumor mill about pending free agents. And the biggest pending free agent of them all is Tom Brady.
The prospect of the future Hall-of-Famer leaving New England for a new chapter with a different team seems crazy, but speculation that the Patriots may not work things out to bring him back started a while ago.
And word from the Combine is that those chances have greatly increased.
According to The Athletic's Vic Tafur, "the strong buzz" at the Combine is that Brady won't be returning to the Patriots. That report was echoed by ESPN's Jeff Darlington, who said "I'm now at the point where I would be stunned if Tom Brady went back to New England."
Where would Brady end up next? The Giants are among the potential suitors, according to NFL Network's Michael Giardi, who's been plugged in with executives, scouts, and coaches around the league. The Titans and Raiders were also on his list.
But the next question -- and the biggest one -- is would the Giants really bring in Brady with the team already investing in Daniel Jones' development? Well, if you take Joe Judge's recent Combine statement about his current roster to heart, then it could truly be a possibility.
"Every one of our players is going to come here with a blank slate and be able to compete from the ground up from Day 1," he said, with GM Dave Gettleman reiterating that during his media availability.
So Judge wouldn't commit to Jones or even Saquon Barkley as his starters publicly, and while that might be coachspeak (SNY's Ralph Vacchiano doesn't believe there's anything to read into there), it's worth noting at the moment. He may not have liked what he saw with Jones last season in his evaluation, and being in New England with Brady for years, he is more than familiar with what he brings to the table.
But Brady isn't going to join the Giants if he doesn't believe he can compete for another Super Bowl title this late in his career. He's looking for a legitimate contender, and the Giants have a lot to do before they can convince someone like Brady that they're ready to do compete for a Lombardi Trophy.
That kind of speculation can come later, though. First, Brady has to hit the open market. And as the March 18 free agency start date approaches, Brady's future in New England looks to be coming to a close.