A former Patriots linebacker believes that if Tom Brady departs New England, there will be a domino effect.

Rob Ninkovich, now an ESPN analyst, expressed to the Boston Herald his belief that many other Patriots free agents — including Devin McCourty, Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins — may be inclined to sign elsewhere should Brady part ways with the organization.

“It’s going to be difficult to try and bring everybody back. I would think if Tom comes back, one of those other players (McCourty, Van Noy, Collins) comes back,” said Ninkovich, who won two Super Bowls with No. 12. “But if Tom doesn’t come back, I don’t know if those guys are going to want to stick around. Because what’s the outlook for the team? Is it a rebuilding phase? What happens moving forward?”

Ninkovich, who played in New England from 2009 to 2016 before retiring in 2017, isn’t sure that Patriots coach Bill Belichick will be able to convince free agents that the organization will remain a Super Bowl contender without their franchise quarterback.

“That would be a hard sell,” Ninkovich said. “In years past, the Patriots have been able to get guys at a bargain, because it’s an older veteran, a guy who’s looking for a Super Bowl, for a playoff run.

Tom Brady Patriots NFL free agency Rob Ninkovich
Tom Brady and Rob Ninkovich in 2015AP

“They’re approached by the Patriots, who say, ‘Look, we’re not going to guarantee the biggest contract, but we’re going to give you an opportunity to play in the playoffs and Super Bowl if you’re interested.’ Ninety-nine percent of the guys are ‘Yeah, I want some validation for my football career.’”

Ninkovich, 36, said his ”gut” feeling is that Brady, 42, is motivated to prove a lot of people wrong. Whether that will be with the Patriots or another NFL organization is yet to be seen. But if Belichick is forced to take on the 2020 season without Brady, Ninkovich is sure Belichick will find a way to make it work.

“It won’t be easy without Tom. It’ll definitely be a struggle,” he said. “I think Bill would be able to figure things out, because he’s one of the best at figuring things out.”