HomeFootball DirtThe 49ers Made an Attempt to Sign Tom Brady in 2023

The 49ers Made an Attempt to Sign Tom Brady in 2023

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Tom Brady has stuck to his guns. The legendary quarterback succinctly said last February his second retirement would stick. After Brady backtracked on retirement No. 1 in 2022, this season represented the NFL’s first without his involvement since 1999.

The future Hall of Famer’s hometown team was still interested in a partnership during the 2023 offseason, however. The 49ers, who were linked to Brady in multiple offseasons during his final years in the NFL, attempted one last push to sign the seven-time Super Bowl champion. Kyle Shanahan informed Brock Purdy of a Brady pursuit early during the ’23 offseason, which featured San Francisco’s current starter rehabbing his UCL tear.

That meant so much to me. I remember [Shanahan] saying, if we can get Tom Brady, we’re going to try to get him. And I was like, ‘Yeah, he’s the GOAT. I get it,’” Purdy said, via ESPN.com’s Nick Wagoner. “But something deep down inside me was sort of like, ‘Dude, I just showed you that I can play well in this system. And we were one game away from the Super Bowl.’ … More than anything, I was like, ‘OK, now let’s go.”

John Lynch said last year Brady responded with a thumbs-up emoji after the 49ers GM texted him congratulating him on his career. It certainly appears the 49ers made a more notable effort to convince Brady to come back than it initially appeared.

At the time, the 49ers had Purdy coming off UCL surgery and Trey Lance back after two ankle procedures. The team then gave Sam Darnold a one-year, $4.5MM deal, and that ended up leading Lance out of town via trade. All the while, the only Brady rumors to come out pertained to his status as a Raiders minority owner. That approval process is still on hold, as the 46-year-old retiree prepares to take over as FOX’s lead analyst for the 2024 season.

During his first months on the job, Lynch memorably asked Bill Belichick about Brady’s trade availability. This occurred back in 2017, when the Patriots still had Jimmy Garoppolo on the roster. That ask led to a rather quick shutdown, and Robert Kraft later intervened to keep Brady entrenched at QB by trading Garoppolo to the 49ers for a second-round pick. Brady’s free agency occurred just after Garoppolo quarterbacked the 49ers to Super Bowl LIV, and the Buccaneers and Chargers were the only teams in that race until the end.

In 2022, however, rumblings about Brady being interested in playing for his hometown team surfaced. This came during a complex Brady offseason, which featured the Dolphins being fined for tampering in an effort to have Brady play for Sean Payton. The Brady-49ers rumors came during the QB’s first retirement, and then-Bucs HC Bruce Arians confirmed the team had no interest in trading Brady’s rights elsewhere. Brady soon came back to play his age-45 season, which did not go well.

Still, Joe Flacco‘s stunning re-emergence on the Browns displayed what can happen when an aging quarterback lands in the right offense. Shanahan clearly believed Brady could run his, age notwithstanding, but has otherwise championed Purdy. While hiccups have ensued this season — mainly when Deebo Samuel has been out — Purdy has rewarded the 49ers, earning a Pro Bowl nod in his first full starter season. Purdy’s 9.6 yards per attempt are the second-most by a quarterback since the 1950s, and Kurt Warner‘s 2000 mark (9.9) came in 11 games. The 2022 draft’s Mr. Irrelevant has set himself up as a potential long-term 49ers mainstay, though his draft status continues to inject doubt about his place among the game’s upper-echelon passers.

The Raiders did not view Brady as an emergency option after Garoppolo’s injury waiver came to light last May, and the Jets are not believed to have inquired about a comeback once Aaron Rodgers went down. Although Brady’s 2022 return reminded to keep him on the radar, his spending a season out of football does seem to reaffirm he is done playing.

While this makes for a fun “what if?” regarding San Francisco, the 49ers — who are in their fourth NFC championship game in five seasons — are now a Purdy-centric operation.

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