Tom Brady to the Raiders? UFC’s Dana White says Jon Gruden said no.

UFC President Dana White said Saturday that Tom Brady might have become the quarterback for the Las Vegas Raiders when he was a free agent in 2020 but that Jon Gruden, then the team’s coach, put the kibosh on it at the last minute.

That’s the story told by White, who has no ties to the NFL but does have a friendship with Brady. Rob Gronkowski, Brady’s longtime and now retired teammate, coaxed the story out of White on Saturday night during the Gronkowski-led alternate broadcast of UFC 278, seen on ESPN and ESPN Plus.

“I worked to put that deal together for Brady and Gronk to come to the Raiders,” said White, who is not an NFL player agent. “It was almost a done deal. And at the last minute, Gruden blew the deal up and said that he didn’t want him and all hell broke loose, man. It was crazy.

And Brady was already looking at houses. It wasn’t said yet that Gronk was going to be coming. So Las Vegas would have had Brady and Gronk the year that the Bucs won the Super Bowl except Gruden blew the deal up.”

It’s a juicy tidbit, but there has been no comment from Gruden, who resigned from the Raiders last fall amid controversy over racist, homophobic and misogynistic language that he used in emails over a roughly seven-year span before agreeing to his second stint as the team’s head coach. Brady has not commented, either. After missing a big chunk of the training camp, he is expected to return “early” this week, according to Tampa Bay Buccaneers Coach Todd Bowles.

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There had been reports that the Raiders were interested in Brady before he free agency, and White has spoken previously of wanting to see the quarterback land with the Raiders. Of course, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross recently was suspended and fined, along with the team being stripped of two draft picks, for tampering in connection with Brady and former New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton.

As Brady’s time in New England wound down, he clearly was interested in a number of teams and his hometown San Francisco 49ers were often mentioned, too. An NFL investigation determined that the Dolphins had impermissible communications with Brady in 2019 and 2020 while he was under contract with the Patriots. The Dolphins also had impermissible communications with Brady and his agent, whom the league did not identify by name, during and after the 2021 season, while he was under contract with the Buccaneers.

Brady himself discussed his free agency and the lack of interest from one unnamed team in a June 2021 appearance on LeBron James’s YouTube show, “The Shop,” which was aired at the time by HBO.

“One of the teams, they weren’t interested at the very end,” Brady said. “I was thinking, ‘You’re sticking with that motherf—–?’ ”

As for this latest intrigue, Gronkowski was the one who brought up the story Saturday night and White said he had not planned to discuss it until Gronkowski asked. Unlike Brady, Gronkowski was not nearing free agency at the time. He was under contract with the Patriots despite having retired after the 2018 season and the team’s sixth Super Bowl title. New England later traded him to Tampa Bay, where he and Brady teamed up for another championship.

Gronkowski, the center of speculation about whether he might un-retire at some point this season, went on to add that he was “glad” the Raiders deal “did not go through.”

“It all worked out for the best, man. I’m glad we went to Tampa, man. It just worked out. I love that place.”

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