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Sunday NFL Thoughts: Patriots QB Tom Brady and an Evaluation of His Team-Friendly Deals

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1. There are questions about what New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's contract restructure will accomplish, although the general consensus is that the deal will free up some cap space in 2016.

Some also believe that Brady's restructure will protect the quarterback from monetary losses if the courts reverse Judge Berman's DeflateGate rulings, and Brady is forced to serve a suspension. Reducing Brady's base salary will reduce the amount lost while serving the suspension.

2. Brady has a reputation for taking less than the market value, but he's actually been doing pretty well for himself. His first big contract in 2005 resulted in roughly $10 million per year (APY), which only trailed Michael Vick ($14.4 million APY), Peyton Manning ($14.2 million APY), and Brett Favre ($10.1 million APY) at the time.

While Brady had three Super Bowl titles under his belt, Favre was a three-time MVP, Manning was coming off of the greatest quarterback season in NFL history (through that point), and Vick was a video game. Few would argue that Brady deserved more than Favre or Manning.

Brady's subsequent contract extension in 2010 for the years 2011-14 was valued at $18 million APY, which was the market leader at the time, ahead of Donovan McNabb's $17.6 million APY with Washington, and Eli Manning's $16.3 million APY with the Giants. Peyton received an $18.0 million APY contract in 2011 to match Brady's deal.

3. The 2015 season might be the first time where Brady could be considered to play under a discount and even that was a calculated risk. Brady signed a three-year extension in 2013 that would cover 2015-17 at an average of $8 million per season. In exchange for that low future value, the Patriots gave Brady $30 million as an upfront signing bonus.

Instead of receiving $30 million spread over 2013-14 under his prior contract, the Patriots paid that amount upfront and gave Brady a base salary of merely $1 million and $2 million for 2013-14. Essentially, the Patriots paid the $30 million upfront instead of over two seasons, added $3 million in base salary over the time frame, and added three additional years used to save room under the salary cap.

The structure guaranteed Brady financial security and opened up cap space for the team. With regards to actual cash flow, Brady was still playing under his top-of-the-market $18 million APY valuation until the 2015 season (and actually closer to $19 million APY due to the extra $3 million in base), when he dropped down to $8 million.

4. So while Brady's been lauded for playing below his market level, just keep in mind that: a) he's signed top-of-the-market deals during his career that he's played under; b) 2015 is really the only season that's been under market value; and c) cap magic is a wonderful thing.

5. This actually just a huge roundabout way to bring up the topic of the middle class of NFL contracts. It doesn't exist for quarterbacks. In fact, there are just two quarterbacks on non-rookie deals that fall between $5.25 million APY (Brian Hoyer) and $16 million APY (Andy Dalton): Patriots QB Tom Brady ($9 million APY, until his extension details are known) and Rams QB Nick Foles ($12.3 million APY).

There's an expectation that Jets QB Ryan Fitzpatrick will join Brady and Foles in the Quarterback Middle Class, but he could also receive a Sam Bradford-like deal of 2-years, $36 million.

The only other position with such a weak middle class would be at running back, and that's due to the increase in committee backfields. Perhaps some intrepid team will find a way to take advantage of a cheaper quarterback, with an increased dedication of resources to alternative positions.