Biggest losers of Tom Brady's free agency: What if Chargers, 49ers, Bears had signed QB?

Biggest losers of Tom Brady's free agency: What if Chargers, 49ers, Bears had signed QB?

Not everyone can win the lottery.

Several teams were involved in the Tom Brady free agency sweepstakes in 2020, with the Buccaneers emerging victorious in their quest for “TB12’s” services. Other teams weren’t so lucky. 

The Chargers seem to have snagged a franchise passer in the draft, three of the other teams who angled for Brady selected potential passers of the future in the 2021 NFL Draft. So, it didn’t exactly work out for those teams. Or not yet, at least.

Those other quarterbacks — Trey Lance, Justin Fields and Mac Jones — likely won’t sniff the success that Brady had in New England (and Tampa Bay), but in all likelihood no one will. Still, those teams are hoping their future passers can mitigate the blow of losing out on the GOAT.

MORE: Tom Brady’s backup QBs, ranked


If things hold the way they’re going at the moment, the Chargers might have wound up in the best situation of any of the teams that worked out.

Justin Herbert was drafted with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and he went on to have a marvelous rookie season for the Chargers, even in a losing season that saw Anthony Lynn lose his job.

Herbert threw 31 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions for Los Angeles in 2020, with 31 Big-Time Throws (per PFF), a mark was good for 10th in the NFL. That ranked ahead of a few other franchise QBs: Kyler Murray (27), Lamar Jackson (24) and Kirk Cousins (24).

Simply put, Herbert looks like the goods — and he could stay that way for a long time, as long as he keeps up his ascent in the NFL.

MORE: NFL QBs who have beaten all 32 teams


The 49ers were the most intriguing team involved in the Brady sweepstakes, considering their employment of Jimmy Garoppolo. In 2017, Garoppolo was shipped to the West Coast from New England, supposedly to not to upset the apple cart with Tom Brady still going strong in New England.

The 49ers were reportedly a team who pulled out at the last second, opting to stick with “Jimmy GQ,” further fueling speculation that Brady was pretty peeved that Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch opted to stick with his former understudy.

Lynch and Shanahan, though, quickly realized within the next year that the team couldn’t — and eventually wouldn’t — move into the future with Garoppolo under center as a long-term answer: While a good quarterback, Garoppolo’s injury history forced the Niners to navigate up the draft, eventually moving up to the No. 3 overall pick to select Trey Lance in 2021.

Garoppolo’s era as San Fran starter is still going for the 2-1 49ers (for now), as Lance waits to take the reins at some point. Maybe the 49ers’ realization that they needed an upgrade at QB came a year too late.

MORE: Revisiting the hit that launched Tom Brady’s career


Life after Brady is proving to be a bit more difficult than maybe Bill Belichick envisioned.

The Patriots gave Jarrett Stidham a long look in the 2020 offseason before eventually settling on a Cam Newton signing, who had a … unique year within the Pats offense. Newton’s legs were on display, rushing for 592 yards and 12 touchdowns. Through the air, Newton had just eight touchdowns in 15 games. New England’s offense wasn’t exactly explosive or productive altogether.

A year of Newton and middling offensive success pushed the Patriots to draft Alabama’s Mac Jones in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, and also forced Belichick to open up the checkbook and make wholesale changes to the offense with signings of Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry and Nelson Agholor. Jones was named the starter for the 2021 season, and he’s gone through middling results so far. He is a rookie, after all.

If Jones produces like he’s expected — and if Belichick can develop a QB who isn’t named Brady — then the Patriots could be in good shape as the Hoodie enters the twilight of his career. The results just haven’t ben there yet.


In a colloquial word, “LOL.”

According to sports analyst Dan Patrick, the Bears were one of the finalists for Brady, joining the Bucs and Chargers who may have been in it until the very end.

It’s not necessarily fun to dunk on such a (once) proud and historic NFL franchise, but under the reign of Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace, the Bears seem to be stuck in a tree with no trampoline underneath, especially when it comes to the QB position.

While Chicago made the playoffs in 2020, the 2020 Bears’ QB duo was the stuff of infamy: Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles split time as starters, and both performed OK at best. Suffice it to say, Brady would have been a clear upgrade over both guys, with the Matt Nagy offense sputtering to poor finishes in yards (26th) and points scored (22nd).

In 2021, the Bears moved on from Trubisky, and the powers that be in Chicago decided to trade a future first to move up in the 2021 NFL Draft to take Justin Fields. Fields’ first taste of NFL action wasn’t any great, going 6-20 passing for 68 yards, eating nine sacks in a game vs. the Browns.

The sky’s the limit for Fields, though — it just likely won’t happen under Nagy and Co. if things continue this way.