Rob Ninkovich was a key defensive contributor on two Brady-led Super Bowl teams, including the Patriots’ comeback championship win against the Atlanta Falcons in 2017. The former Patriots linebacker argues that other key Patriots free agents, such as defensive back Devin McCourty, linebacker Kyle Van Noy and edge rusher Jamie Collins, could follow Brady out of New England.
“It’s going to be difficult to try and bring everybody back. I would think if Tom comes back, one of those other players (McCourty, Van Noy, Collins) comes back,” Ninkovich told the Boston Herald. “But if Tom doesn’t come back, I don’t know if those guys are going to want to stick around. Because what’s the outlook for the team? Is it a rebuilding phase? What happens moving forward?”
Brady, 42, has led the Patriots to six Super Bowl titles during his 20-year stint in New England. He is set to become a free agent for the first time in his career on March 18 and has yet to give any indication as to where he plans to sign.
Aside from difficulties in retaining players, Ninkovich said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick would have to convince other free agents that New England has a strong plan for the post-Brady era.
“That would be a hard sell,” Ninkovich said. “In years past, the Patriots have been able to get guys at a bargain, because it’s an older veteran, a guy who’s looking for a Super Bowl, for a playoff run."
Brady can begin talks with other teams on March 16 when the NFL’s 48-hour “legal tampering” window opens. Until then, the Patriots have exclusive rights to negotiate a new contract with Brady.
With free agency just weeks away, there has been “no movement” on talks between the two sides, according to ESPN.