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49ers, Titans reportedly are out of the Tom Brady market

Tom Brady's market may be shrinking already. (Charles Krupa / Associated Press)
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Tom Brady’s free agency, one of the biggest NFL offseason stories in years, is about to begin and it’s already sending ripples throughout the NFL, where one of the brightest classes of free agent quarterbacks could hit the market.

And it’s a market that, for Brady, may be shrinking before it even opens.

The San Francisco 49ers and Tennessee Titans, teams that were believed to have had interest in Brady, reportedly have moved on. Of particular intrigue was the possibility that Brady could end up in San Francisco, where the 49ers just went to the Super Bowl with Jimmy Garoppolo, who used to be Brady’s backup in New England. But Chris Simms, an NBC analyst and former quarterback who is close to 49ers Coach Kyle Shanahan, threw cold water on that idea.

“The 49ers are out on Tom Brady. That is not going to happen,” Simms said in an NBC video. “In my understanding it was Tom Brady’s No. 1 choice ... to go to San Francisco and be the starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. I don’t know what happened, but something happened in the last few days. ... They will be standing pat with Jimmy Garoppolo as their starting quarterback.”

Simms went on to say that the Brady sweepstakes are, “from everything I’ve heard, down to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New England Patriots." The reason? The Bucs would be willing to make Brady a $30 million quarterback.

The Titans chose to go all in with Ryan Tannehill, reaching agreement on a contract according to NFL Network and Tannehill himself. “Tennessee, let’s run it back,” he tweeted, referring to the team’s appearance in the AFC championship game. “#TITANUP”

Tannehill, the eighth overall pick in 2012, was traded with a sixth-round pick to the Titans for fourth- and seventh-round picks last year and led Tennessee to nine victories, two of which came in the postseason. The comeback player of the year, Tannehill agreed to a four-year deal worth $118 total, for a $29.5 million per year average, according to ESPN’s Jeff Darlington.

The Titans re-signing Tannehill frees Marcus Mariota, who will join a group of free agents waiting to learn their fate. Others include Drew Brees (who has said he is returning to New Orleans), Teddy Bridgewater, Dak Prescott, Philip Rivers, and Jameis Winston.

As for Brady, will the six-time Super Bowl champion re-sign with the Patriots, for whom he has played his entire career? Or will Brady depart for a new team in an attempt to prove he can win without Bill Belichick as his coach?

Where will Tom Brady play? Here are seven possible destinations.

The legal tampering period begins Monday, which means this situation is about to heat up ahead of the opening of free agency at 4 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, when agreements such as Tannehill’s officially take effect.

Consider this your one-stop source for the latest Brady scuttlebutt.

March 12

Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the Buccaneers are going “all in” on Brady and “will do almost anything to land the quarterback.”

It’s a matter of simple relevance: Tampa Bay hasn’t made the playoffs since 2007 — the NFC’s longest drought and the second-longest in the NFL — and hasn’t won a playoff game since their Super Bowl season in 2002, and with 45,000 empty seats to fill next season, Coach Bruce Arians and the team’s ownership need the star power Brady would provide.

Stroud says the Bucs seem ready to move on from Jameis Winston, who led the NFL in both passing yards and interceptions last season and seems likely to become a free agent next week. They are going to have the salary cap space — $80 million, fourth most in the NFL — to pay Brady what he’ll probably be asking, too. Plus, Tampa Bay’s receiving corps could be enticing to Brady, with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate a nice group of pass-catchers.

March 9

Guesses took a turn toward Hollywood, where the Los Angeles Chargers happen to be in the market for a quarterback with Philip Rivers entering free agency. That’s because Brady made a big announcement that fueled speculation about L.A., saying that he has formed “199 Productions,” a company that will develop documentaries, feature films and television projects and named for his infamous spot in the 2000 NFL draft. (That guy never forgets.)

Elsewhere, one of Brady’s former coaches was tasked with cleanup duty as speculation ramped up and the countdown to free agency intensified.

“I do have one bit of scoop for us. I’ve been texting with Tommy,” Charlie Weis, Brady’s offensive coordinator in New England from 2000 to 2004, said on his “Opening Drive” show on Sirius XM NFL (via ESPN’s Mike Reiss). “I don’t [usually] pass along these conversations, but one thing he told me: ‘Nobody knows anything. So anyone who is telling you they know, they don’t know.’ I’m not going through any other part of the conversation [but] I followed up and he said, ‘Clean it up.’ So I’m cleaning it up.”

March 4

Brady claimed uncertainty about his future when he told UFC President Dana White, a Las Vegas resident who happens to hail from Boston and is a Patriots fan, “I don’t know what the future holds.”

“Right now, I’m just trying to be patient through this process. It’s my first time going through it,” the 42-year-old quarterback told White in an Instagram live video. “In the meantime, I’m going to spend a lot of time with my family over the next 10 to 12 days. We have a little vacation planned, which I’m looking forward to.”

He added, “Obviously being where I’ve been for 20 years, it’s been an amazing experience.”

ESPN’s Jeff Darlington said that eight NFL teams “are at the very least monitoring Tom Brady’s free agency” with “varying levels of interest.”

“Four of those teams, I believe, would sign him right now,” Darlington said.

The Boston Herald’s Karen Guregian reported that Brady and Belichick had their first telephone conversation about the quarterback’s free agency and — without going into specifics — her source says “it didn’t go well.”

“While their contact appears to be off to a rocky start, it doesn’t necessarily preclude the team from signing its six-time Super Bowl winner,” Guregian reminded everyone.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter offered a less dramatic summary of the call, reporting that Belichick and Brady “have spoken recently” and “the tone of their discussion was ‘business as usual,’ per source.” Of course, over the years in New England, “business as usual” for Belichick has meant ruthlessly banishing star players he thought were no longer of use to him, so there’s that.

March 2

Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer reported that Brady and Belichick would be meeting at some point in the near future, that “Brady is open to returning to the Patriots, under certain terms” and that “Belichick is open to bringing him back, under certain terms.”

Feb. 29

The intensity of speculation about Brady’s free agency plans was reflected in widespread attempts at lip-reading when Brady and Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman, along with comedian Jimmy Fallon, took in the North Carolina-Syracuse game. Brady and Edelman have joked about their close friendship, with both admitting that the quarterback’s favorite pass-catcher often plays the role of pesky little brother.

That was on display for a national TV audience when a TV camera found the two, as Edelman smiled and mouthed the words, “He’s coming back,” presumably meaning to the Patriots and not from the restroom or a trip to the concession stand. Sitting next to Edelman, Brady appeared to catch his drift, saying something that was very much open to interpretation as he shook his head in annoyance and smiled.

Did he say, “he’s not” or perhaps, “let’s not,” as in do this here and now? The expression, as NBC Sports Boston’s Tom E. Curran tweeted, “seems to say, ‘I will strangle you. I will. I don’t want to. But I will.’”

That mystery appeared to be solved later that day, when Edelman’s and Brady’s comments were aired with enhanced audio by NFL Network. As it turned out, after the wide receiver said “He’s coming back,” someone off camera asked Brady what the quarterback had told Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim.

“He’s got it,” Brady appeared to reply. In any event, it was clear that he wasn’t telling Edelman, “Let’s not” — leaving conspiracy theorists to move on to another moment in the game, when Brady and Edelman were spotted FaceTiming with Titans Coach Mike Vrabel, the same guy who was a longtime teammate of Brady’s in New England. So, yeah, that got folks’ attention.

Later, Edelman left no question about his thoughts, sharing an image of a red, white and blue T-shirt emblazoned with the words “STAY! TOM 2020 A quarterback you can trust” on Instagram. Lest his message be unclear on the shirt he’s hawking, he added a logo of a red-white-and-blue/starred-and-striped goat on the sleeve.

“New England,” he wrote, “is a Tomocracy.”

Brady responded by reminding everyone of their bromance, inquiring on social media about what kind of profits might be derived from Edelman-related merch.

Feb. 28

Perhaps Edelman shouldn’t feel too badly about being in the dark about Brady’s future. The QB’s other bestie, his wife Gisele Bündchen, claims she has no idea, either.

“I would love to know where I’m going to be living this year but I don’t know that yet,” the supermodel replied in an Instagram q-and-a. “But hopefully somewhere nice. And wherever my husband is happy playing, so we will see.”

Feb. 27

With team executives, player representatives coaches and reporters all gathered in Indianapolis for the NFL scouting combine — including Don Yee, Brady’s agent — the whispers began to Mount, and this was a big day for the Brady beat.

At this moment on the NFL calendar, only the Patriots may talk to Brady and his representatives about a new contract.

Guregian speculated (and ESPN’s Adam Schefter agreed) that Belichick might be waiting for the vote on the new collective bargaining agreement to take place before moving forward with free agency, considering the impact a new labor agreement will have in that regard. Nevertheless, a source told her that the possibility of Brady re-signing with the Patriots is “not looking good.”

Darlington — whom Peter King described as “legitimate inside-the-circle tight” with the Brady camp — had a similar report, saying that Brady “is currently operating under the belief that he will enter free agency to play somewhere other than New England next season, a sentiment the quarterback has shared with others.”

While Brady’s camp believes the Patriots will get a chance to make their case, Darlington said “Brady is evaluating the NFL landscape with the intention of departing.”

“It’s hard for me to envision him playing somewhere else. He wants to play. But ultimately, it’s Bill’s decision,” Tom Brady Sr. told Guregian. “Nobody really knows. Bill doesn’t tip his hand. There’s just been insinuations here and there. This is really kind of between those two. They got to decide what they want.

“If Bill says he doesn’t want Tommy, and Tommy wants to play, well, Joe Montana went to Kansas City … just because Bill decides he wants to move on, that won’t dictate Tommy’s future. I’m sure there are a few other teams in the league that would want him.”

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