If a Belichick trade happens later, it likely will be set up sooner

Sunday’s report from NFL Network regarding Bill Belichick’s contract, which runs through 2024, quite possibly operates as a message from the Patriots to anyone who would think about hiring him after the current season.

He’s not getting fired. If you want him, you’ll have to strike a deal with us.

Now that the word is out, the question becomes whether one or more teams will contact the Patriots now, in the hopes of working out an arrangement with the Patriots and, in turn, an agreement with Belichick. Basically, the dominoes would be arranged before Week 18. Then, after the regular season ends and the team in question has fired its current coach and gone through the motions of a normal search, the first domino would be flicked.

Such an approach would violate various layers and levels of league rules, including most importantly the spirit if not the letter of the Rooney Rule. The team that lands Belichick will have already settled on him, before conducting its search. As long as that team keeps quiet, however, there’s a very good chance nothing will come of it.

The team in question will interview various candidates, check all required boxes, and at the right time activate the process of working something out with the Patriots for Belichick (and the process of working out a deal with Belichick directly).

This assumes that some team will quietly work out a deal with the Patriots and Belichick before the end of the regular season. If that doesn’t happen, the Patriots will have to simply bite the bullet and fire him, hoping he’ll make enough in 2024 from another team to offset whatever they would owe him for the final year of his contract.

So which teams could be considering Belichick? Rumors in league circles have linked the Commanders to Belichick. The Buccaneers are another possibility. The Chargers would have to be considered, given that they have a franchise quarterback in Justin Herbert. And the Panthers make the list, simply because owner David Tepper is sufficiently rich and desperate and involved to give it a whirl.

Other teams could be interested. With appropriate guardrails regarding his power over personnel and a high-end quarterback, Belichick could thrive again. Potentially.

Even if he doesn’t, his presence would sell tickets and secure prime-time games and otherwise make an irrelevant team highly relevant in 2024 and beyond. For plenty of owners, that’s all that matters.

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