Saints were in play for Tom Brady until Drew Brees decided to return for 2020

The six-time Super Bowl winner had a bigger market than the Bucs and Chargers, according to television reports.
Is it possible Tom Brady, right, could have been at New Orleans this season if Drew Brees had decided to retire?
Is it possible Tom Brady, right, could have been at New Orleans this season if Drew Brees had decided to retire? [ MICHAEL DWYER | Associated Press (2012) ]
Published Sept. 13, 2020|Updated Sept. 13, 2020

TAMPA — Tom Brady could be opening the season today as the Saints quarterback against the Bucs had Drew Brees retired, according to multiple reports.

ESPN and the NFL Network reported that the Saints believed they could have landed Brady, 43, had Brees decided not to play in 2020. Brees, 41, already has had discussions with networks about broadcasting when his playing days end, including one he accepted from NBC.

The Saints have plenty of offensive weapons, including receiver Michael Thomas and running back Alvin Kamara, that likely would have enticed Brady. Much like Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, among others, for the Bucs.

The networks said the Chicago Bears also expressed an interest in Brady, but he wasn’t a fan of continuing to play in cold weather. Ultimately, Brady’s decision boiled down to the Bucs and the Los Angeles Chargers, who were moving on from Philip Rivers.

Related: La-Z-Boy? Check. Beer? Check. Best day in Tampa Bay sports? Oh, yeah.

Here’s where the Saints' interest appears to be more of a contingency plan than a pursuit.

Coach Sean Payton and Brady both are represented by agent Don Yee, so the back channel communication would have been open during the process. But Brees announced he was returning to the Saints in mid-February, a full month before Brady made his decision.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter said discussions about Brady in New Orleans lasted until days before free agency, even though Brees had already committed to returning.

A more plausible alternative may have been the 49ers. Brady’s representatives reached out to his hometown team to determine their interest. Niners general manager John Lynch had discussions about Brady internally, but ultimately, they decided to stay with Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback, who guided them to a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter before losing Super Bowl 54 to Kansas City.

Payton and Brady have had a little back-and-forth fun since he signed a two-year, $50 million deal with the Bucs.

“Tom’s got that whole TB12 line. He had me buying the water in the offseason and it was fantastic, only the e-mails don’t stop coming,” Payton said. “I told him, ‘Can you stop sending me emails?’ And he went personally to the company and now they’re doubled. Each day I wake up I’ve got to erase about 15 TB12 emails.”