The chances of Tom Brady re-signing with the New England Patriots looked bleak on Thursday morning as reports surfaced that there has yet to be a meeting between the two sides to discuss continuing their marriage going forward. In fact, ESPN's Jeff Darlington went as far as to say that Brady is "currently operating under the belief that he will enter free agency to play somewhere other than New England next season." Yikes. 

The legal tampering period is still a few weeks away, so the Patriots do have an exclusive window to solely speak with Brady and his camp. So why aren't they? ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that discussions surrounding a potential new collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and NFLPA have held up any potential contract discussions between the Patriots and Brady. When there is more clarity with the CBA, and we know what the rules will be going forward, that should bring some clarity for both Brady and Bill Belichick in how a possible contract could be structured. 

"Without knowing about the CBA, that talk can't happen," a source told Schefter. 

As things stand currently with no new CBA in place, if the Patriots and Brady cannot come to terms on a deal before March 18 at 4 p.m. ET, New England will be hit with the full $13.5 million against their cap for 2020 that steams from Brady's previous deal last summer which included two voidable years. If they are able to come to terms prior to that date, they'd be able to split it over the next two seasons at $6.75 million. The former would naturally hurt the Patriots in their attempt to not only re-sign Brady but also to put the necessary talent around him to contend for a seventh Super Bowl together. 

That said, if the NFL and NFLPA are able to come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement prior to the start of the new league year, it could open the door to make things even easier to retain Brady. Then, the Patriots would not have to follow the "30 Percent Rule" in Article 13, Section 7 of the CBA which states that "no player contract extending into a season beyond the Final League Year may provide for an annual increase in salary ... of more than 30 percent of the salary provided for in the Final League Year, per year, either in the season after the Final League Year or in any subsequent season covered by the Player Contract." Essentially, that means the Patriots are less limited in how much they can increase Brady's salary. 

A new CBA would also open the door for the Patriots to follow a model they did a year ago and attach voidable years to Brady's contract to spread cap hits at a more palpable measure. 

With the salary cap only projected to increase over the next few seasons and the potential ability to make that cap hit on a new Brady deal less damaging to the overall structure of the club, it would make sense for the Patriots to wait and see how the CBA shakes out before engaging their franchise icon in contract talks.