For weeks, there has been speculation about the Chargers bolstering their roster with TB12.
What has gone largely unreported is the fact their roster already featured TB12. Or, at least, a TB12.
Travis Benjamin wore No. 12 the last four seasons.
That the jersey soon could transfer from a No. 3 wide receiver to a quarterback generally accepted to be the greatest all-time illustrates the outrageous potential of this Chargers offseason.
Tom Brady is on the verge of becoming a free agent for the first time in his Hall of Fame career.
Based on who’s doing the forecasting, Brady signing with the Chargers is a real possibility or an absurd longshot or, most likely, something in between.
No one can be exactly sure what will happen to Brady after 20 years — and six Super Bowl triumphs — in New England.
But what is certain is that his future will help determine the direction of a lot of quarterbacks and teams as the window for free-agent negotiations is set to open Monday — barring any late delays.
The Chargers are prepped to make a big move or two. On Friday, they released linebacker Thomas Davis and defensive tackle Brandon Mebane — both starters and captains — to free $9.5 million in cap space.
They also restructured the contract of linebacker Denzel Perryman to create more room. They now have slightly less than $52 million toward the cap, according to overthecap.com.
The Chargers are moving forward without quarterback Philip Rivers, who has started all 235 games the franchise has played since 2006. Like Brady, Rivers will be a free agent, a decision he and the Chargers reached mutually last month.
Tyrod Taylor would be the team’s starting quarterback if the 2020 season began today. Of course, the opener is still six months away, with plenty of roster building to be done before then.
Brady, who will turn 43 in August, would give the Chargers a new level of credibility and an all-time marquee name to hang on the outside of SoFi Stadium for a grand opening.
He also would bring an abundance of experience, a wealth of success and a whole lot of swagger in the form of an old-school, drop-back passer who can still make plays and take care of the football.
But Brady has a record of 219-64 as a starting NFL quarterback and hasn’t experienced a losing season as a starter since, well, since maybe ever. In the Chargers, he’d be joining a team that just lost 11 of 16 games and is in the process of rebuilding an offensive line that struggled trying to keep Rivers protected.
“We’re confident we can win with Tyrod,” general manager Tom Telesco said last month at the scouting combine. “Then we’ll look at all the other options that are out there. We’re still early in the process right now. But we’re just looking for a quarterback that we can win with. We think we can win with Tyrod too.”
No matter who plays quarterback this season, that offensive front will need to be upgraded.
Telesco already traded for five-time Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner, giving up starting left tackle Russell Okung.
The free-agent market for offensive linemen will feature the likes of tackles Jack Conklin and Jason Peters.
Another option for the Chargers could be Bryan Bulaga, who has started 111 games at tackle for Green Bay since 2010.
For nine years with the Packers, he worked with James Campen, who the Chargers hired this offseason to be their offensive line coach. Such connections often influence personnel movement in the NFL.
The Chargers also could use a cornerback to pair opposite Casey Hayward. Those free-agent options will include Bradley Roby, a former first-round pick the Chargers know well from his five seasons in Denver.
Other notable needs for the team are linebacker, interior defensive lineman and wide receiver.
Those are all areas the Chargers will be addressing in the coming weeks, starting with free agency and continuing with the draft, which is still scheduled for April.
But the biggest domino will be Brady. When — and where — he topples, could have a lot to do with what happens next.