Pundit says 49ers will bring in Tom Brady, bench Trey Lance

Tom Brady is retired.

Let’s start with that. Brady’s retirement announcement in early February was dodgy in details, yes, and he’s absolutely kicked up the intrigue about his status in the month since, granting interviews left and right where he’s given a master class in non-answers. But as far as we know, and until further notice, the seven-time Super Bowl winner made the perfectly reasonable decision to stop playing football at the age of 44.

If Brady decides to unretire, no one will be surprised. But then what happens?

That’s where the San Francisco 49ers come in. Since the NFL offseason is in full swing, NFL pundits are in desperate need of offseason-long story lines, stuff they can go back to when the well runs dry. And wouldn’t you know it: Tom Brady, greatest football player of all time, man who seems unconvinced he’s ready to transition to full-time shilling of NFTsgrew up a Niners fan/is from San Mateo, as you’ve heard approximately 8 billion times.

“If Brady comes back, he’ll go to the Niners” is an increasingly common refrain from NFL pundits, but it hasn’t really been based on anything beyond pure conjecture. ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio is doing lots of the conjecturing, but in an annoying way exclusive to big-name sports pundits, where they’re talking forcefully enough to make you think they know something. And in fairness, Florio is plugged into NFL front offices — he actually might know something!

Florio wrote on Friday that Brady shouldn’t have very much trouble getting out of the last year of his deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, especially since he already won them a Super Bowl and stayed with the team on a cheaper-than-necessary deal . Florio’s story serves as a rebuttal to a recent statement from Bucs coach Bruce Arians, who has said he’s absolutely against trading or cutting Brady from the roster if he comes back.

“As a practical matter, [Brady’s] commitment to the Buccaneers has ended,” Florio wrote. “Any clumsy effort to huff and puff about Brady being the exclusive property of the Buccaneers and that the team wouldn’t allow him to pick his next destination will serve only to blow down the house of whoever tries to do it.”

And Florio has quadrupled down on a Brady-Niners arrangement during recent media appearances while promoting his new book. “I’ve come to the conclusion that Tom Brady has retired from the Buccaneers, not from football. He’s trying to gracefully exit from Tampa Bay even though he’s under contract for one more year,” Florio said on 95.7 The Game on Friday. “People say, ‘What else does Brady have to accomplish?’ Well, he’s never played for the team he grew up rooting for. That’s got a strong psychological and emotional hold on anyone.”

A few days earlier, in an interview with Dan Patrick, Florio basically gave the same quotes, adding that Brady on the Niners gives Trey Lance another year to mature. Florio boldly agreed to get pied in the face if Brady isn’t the 49ers quarterback by Week 1.

And on a recent NBC Sports appearance, Florio said his money was on Brady going to the Niners, and that Arians has been wrong about Brady a bunch so far (that he wouldn’t retire in the first place, and that he would stay retired ). The latter point is a strange one because, again, as far as we (meaning everyone except Florio) know, Brady is … still retired.

We’re off and running with the speculation now, though. The Boston Globe put out a column on Friday entitled, “The 49ers wouldn’t be foolish enough to pass on Tom Brady a third time, would they?” The column takes some shots at the hubris of Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch, who reportedly passed on a 40-something Brady a few years ago. Another segment on NBC Sports Boston from March 2 was already debating whether Brady could win a title with the 49ers.

It’s still a little early to tell whether any of this means anything or is just bored football pundit fodder. But the noise has officially gotten loud enough to at least know this much: Whether they like it or not, the 49ers are going to be the subject of Brady rumors for the foreseeable future, especially among national media figures.

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