The Patriots do not want to make the same mistake twice.
Last year, the team did not get clarity on Rob Gronkowski's status until free agency was well underway, which meant it missed out on the top tight ends who were available after he announced his retirement.
It doesn't seem like that will happen this year with Tom Brady.
Appearing on ESPN's "Get Up" Thursday, Adam Schefter said the Patriots will want an answer from Brady before free agency begins March 16 with the legal tampering period.
“Here’s the situation: I don’t believe the New England Patriots are waiting until March 16 to get an answer from Tom Brady,” he said. “Last year, Rob Gronkowski wound up retiring in late March. I don’t know the conversations they did and didn’t have before, but New England missed the window on free-agent tight ends. So I don’t think they’re going to let Tom Brady go to free agency, all of a sudden, sign with Team X, and then on March 20, say ‘Well, what do we do at quarterback now?’ That’s not the way that organization operates.”
Brady can sign with the Patriots at any time, while he cannot sign with another team until March 18.