There’s an impressive list of quarterbacks prepping for free agency. Among the group are a couple of Super Bowl winners (Tom Brady, Drew Brees) as well as conference championship game participants (Philip Rivers, Ryan Tannehill). These A-listers and others are primed to hit the open market next month.

Within the total collection, there’s a combined 39 Pro Bowls.

In other words, fasten your seat belts for a different kind of March madness. Every deal will have an impact on the next when it comes to the top guns. And where the first guy lands likely impacts the rest.

As for which player is going to drive the quarterback market, and start the rest of the engines, most signs point to No. 12. Brady is at the head of the parade. He’s the lead domino.

Along with the New England Patriots, there figure to be quite a few teams in play for Brady. Some obvious, perhaps, others that are not.

Whether it’s the Bears, Chargers, Raiders, Colts, Titans, Giants, Bucs or Dolphins, the competition for the six-time Super Bowl champion quarterback will dictate and in some cases determine how the other dominoes fall in this rich quarterback class.

And even beyond the quarterbacks, where Brady ultimately lands could also impact where other free agents on the offensive side of the ball wind up, or desire to play.

Who won’t want to sign up and play with Brady’s Dream Team, if one is assembled? Or, if the Patriots no longer have Brady, where does that leave New England as a draw for free agents?

Solomon Wilcots, analyst for SiriusXM FM radio, agrees the Patriots’ quarterback is the straw that stirs the drink in free agency. He also believes things will really start to heat up around March 1.


In the few days before, franchise tags (Dak Prescott with Dallas?) will start to fly. And the NFL movers and shakers will be assembled in Indianapolis the week before at the scouting combine. Team executives are there, along with agents.

So, wink, wink, teams will get a better idea who’s in play, who isn’t, along with the salary parameters. Whether it’s late-night conversation at bars, or casual run-ins at one of the hotels, the intentions of teams will surface when offers start to form. Brady’s agent, Don Yee, will be on hand, and get a feel for who’s interested in his client from the not-so-legal tampering in Indy. He’ll have an idea about the market and who legitimately wants Brady.

Bottom line, the Patriots and Brady should know where each stands before March 16, which is when the allowed tampering portion takes place, and before the free-agent doors swing open on March 18.

In the Patriots’ case, decisions have to be made on personnel if Brady stays, or if he goes. There’s undoubtedly a Plan A with Brady, and a Plan B without.

“I believe the Patriots are waiting to see what Tom gets. I think they’ll wind up paying him the money, but let the market decide,” said Wilcots. “Their way of not overpaying, is letting the market decide. Bill doesn’t want to overpay. He just wants to pay a good number and move on.”

Wilcots believes the “waiting to see” what the market dictates will likely be established during Indianapolis, as described above. But will Brady accept a “good number” to remain in New England before free agency actually starts? If he still has his heart set on going out on visits, and the whole dog-and-pony show, it’s hard to imagine the Patriots waiting that long for him to decide.

But that’s all part of the intrigue. In the coming weeks, all eyes will be on the Patriots, and which teams actually step up and try and woo the six-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback. Some of the other free-agent quarterbacks will have to see where Brady lands, before other teams move to their respective Plan Bs.

“Teams are going to throw money at Brady,” ESPN analyst Damien Woody said. “That’s going to put the Patriots in a conundrum. But for Brady, it’s going to come down to: ‘Where do I feel most comfortable? Do I want to go back to New England’ or … do I want to bet on myself and get it done outside of New England?'”

If Brady stays, the Chargers still need a headliner, the Colts still want an upgrade over Jacoby Brissett, and Jon Gruden might still want to move on from Derek Carr. So the other dominoes will fall.

Also, will Brees retire, or play another season in New Orleans? Does Tampa really want to stick with Jameis Winston, another free agent, or get a less mistake-prone quarterback for Bruce Arians?

If Brady goes, where do the Patriots turn? Do they make a trade (Matthew Stafford, Andy Dalton), or do they grab one of the free agents (Marcus Mariota, Teddy Bridgewater, Tannehill)? Or is it Jarrett Stidham’s time?

Talk about dominoes.

While Woody wasn’t sure if any one of the quarterbacks would “set the tempo” for the rest, be it Brady or anyone else, he was certain there would be fireworks.

“I can’t remember a time when we had all these quarterbacks on the free-agent market. There’s been nothing like this,” said Woody, “but it’s great for free agency. But you watch with Tom, I’ll bet there will be mystery teams that come out of nowhere. And no one saw it coming. Football is win now. Everyone wants to get it turned around quickly, so this thing could be wild.”

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