In three weeks, Tom Brady can become a free agent.
He’s already a burning topic.
And the Chargers are one of the teams singed by the rumors surrounding Brady, who widely is labeled the greatest of all time and definitely is considered the most-discussed of these times.
No NFL player’s future holds more intrigue than Brady’s, the six-time Super Bowl winner perhaps about to leave his long-time home of New England to finish his Hall of Fame quarterbacking career elsewhere.
Maybe in Los Angeles?
“I’ve been asked the question I can’t tell you how many different ways and different times,” Chargers general manager Tom Telesco said. “The way I’ve kind of answered it is this: We’re early in the process, way too early to eliminate anything right now.
“Like, we’re more in a wide-lens evaluation process to see what fits, what doesn’t fit. We’ll narrow things down later on. But we’ll see.”
Asked a more specific question regarding Brady’s ability, Telesco refused to answer before offering some generic, innocent praise for a player whose presence alone would bring the Chargers a new degree of relevance.
Besides, Brady isn’t free until March 18, and the possibility remains he could re-sign with the Patriots. So Telesco sees no value in publicly addressing a situation that might never develop.
Yet, Brady and his teetering fate tower over the early portion of the NFL’s offseason, the quarterback-needing Chargers reported to be one of his preferred alternate destinations.
Moving into the new SoFi Stadium in 2020, the Chargers already have parted ways with 14-year starter Philip Rivers. Brady could become the main selling point for a relocated franchise desperately peddling itself to a new market.
At the moment, the Chargers have veteran Tyrod Taylor as their lone option to start in place of Rivers. They could always draft a quarterback in April, the early work on that endeavor taking place this week at the NFL combine.
The Chargers pick sixth overall, a position lofty enough to secure one of the best available college quarterbacks, even if Cincinnati at No. 1 and Miami at No. 5 pick quarterbacks, as expected.
In the meantime, the stories linking Brady and the Chargers figure to percolate until he finally signs with someone.
One of the issues that could keep Brady from joining the Chargers is the team’s offensive line. At 42, Brady’s best-case situation would involve him dropping back behind a fortress.
The Chargers offer something much more shaky, a group that played inconsistently in 2019 and still has no guarantee of seeing center Mike Pouncey return.
The veteran sat out the final 11 games last season after having neck surgery. He has expressed a desire to continue playing, but Telesco said Pouncey has yet to receive medical clearance.
Coach Anthony Lynn said he spoke with Pouncey last week, calling him “fired up” about playing again. But Lynn conceded that the Chargers are unsure when Pouncey will be available.
“We’re going to take care of Mike,” he said. “When Mike’s ready we’ll put him back on the field.”
The Chargers also played 10 games in 2019 without left tackle Russell Okung because of health problems. Okung is 32, entering the final year of his contract and privately has expressed concerns about the direction of the franchise.
Beyond Okung and Pouncey, the Chargers have an offensive line that is largely unproven or underwhelming. Taking a tackle or guard early in April’s draft is another option.
“It’s a little bit of a work in progress,” Telesco said. “Obviously, it’s a priority in the offseason, to look at it and see who the best fit is, the best five, see who’s healthy and see who isn’t.”
One member of the offensive front who almost certainly will return is pending free agent Hunter Henry. Telesco said the Chargers are in negotiations with the veteran tight end on a contract extension.
If a deal can’t be worked out first, Telesco indicated Henry could be franchise tagged, a move that would assure him a base salary of about $11 million in 2020 and still leave the possibility to sign a long-term deal before the season.
Who will be throwing passes to Henry is a question very much undecided in late February.
For now, Telesco and the Chargers are leaving open every option — from free agency to the draft to a trade to Taylor — their perspective as welcoming as the widest of lenses.