Oct 10, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) in the first half against the Miami Dolphins at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

In a busy NFL offseason, three of the biggest stories have been the retirement (and subsequent unretirement) of Tom Brady, the ever-growing lawsuit filed against the Miami Dolphins by their former coach Brian Flores, and Sean Payton retiring as head coach of the New Orleans Saints. Those three stories are reportedly connected — in a large way.

In late February, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reported that the Dolphins were interested in making Payton their coach. At the same talks, Brady was in talks to become a minority owner of the team. On Thursday, Florio reported that Miami’s plan would have eventually resulted in Payton as the head coach and Brady as the quarterback.

“After Brady became a minority owner, the Dolphins would have indeed acquired the contractual rights to employ Payton from the Saints,” Florio wrote. “Then, the Dolphins would have at some point gotten the rights from the Buccaneers to bring Brady to the roster.”

So, what changed? According to the report, Flores’ lawsuit, which was filed the same day as Brady’s retirement announcement. Once that happened, Miami’s hiring practices were put under the microscope.

There are a lot of moving pieces in this. For starters, the Dolphins would have had to reach a compensation agreement with both the Saints for Payton and the Buccaneers for Brady. Given the status both men have with those teams, that’s easier said than done. But it certainly wouldn’t have been impossible. And it lends credence to the rumors that Brady would end up in Miami, which swirled after his unretirement.

Additionally, Florio’s Thursday report added that at least Brady going to the Dolphins is something that could still happen after the 2022 season.

“Even though it didn’t happen, it’s an important consideration because Brady will continue to hover as a potential addition to the Dolphins,” Florio wrote. “He has a close relationship with Bruce Beal, the right-hand man and successor-in-waiting to Dolphins owner Stephen Ross. With Brady under contract for one more season in Tampa Bay and his deal containing a no-tag clause, Brady will be a free agent in 2023. He will be able to sign with any team he chooses.”

What happens in 2022 will have a lot to say about that.

The Dolphins loaded up their offense in the offseason. If third-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa finally becomes a star, Miami could well decide to stay with the younger signal-caller. Also, Brady will be 45 in August. If he struggles in 2022, it’s unlikely that the Dolphins will call on a 46-year-old Brady for 2023.

But what if the reverse happens? What Tagovailoa struggles and Brady performs well? In that case, this will definitely be something to remember when the 2023 offseason gets going.

[Pro Football Talk]

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