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Sunday NFL Thoughts: Tom Brady is testing his luck, Patriots setting up his end-game

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The Patriots are preparing for the final stretch of Brady’c career.

1. New England Patriots QB Tom Brady is going full steam ahead with his Madden Curse bit and I have to say: I don’t know if I could do what Brady is doing.

They wouldn't let me break the full-length mirror... All good!

Posted by Tom Brady on Friday, May 12, 2017

It’s one thing to go on the cover of Madden- the “curse” is simply a case of regression, where star players that earn the right to be on the cover are unlikely to achieve the same greatness in consecutive seasons- but to actively go out and smash mirrors and walk under ladders? Brady might as well adopt a black cat or wear white after labor day at this point. He’s ruthless.

I couldn’t do it. I’m just going to sit back and enjoy Bubble Boy at work this offseason:

Posted by Tom Brady on Saturday, 13 May 2017

2. With the extension of C David Andrews through the 2020 season, the Patriots key offensive players are mostly locked up for the foreseeable future, with a couple exceptions:

2018 Free Agents: QB Jimmy Garoppolo, RB Rex Burkhead, RB Dion Lewis, WR Julian Edelman (will be 32 before start of 2018 season), WR Danny Amendola (will be 32), OT Nate Solder (will be 30), OT Cameron Fleming

2019 Free Agents: WR Chris Hogan, WR Brandin Cooks, RB Mike Gillislee, OG Shaq Mason

Three or more years under contract: QB Tom Brady, RB James White, WR Malcolm Mitchell, TE Rob Gronkowski, TE Dwayne Allen, OT Marcus Cannon, OG Joe Thuney, C David Andrews

When looking at the 2018 free agents, the Patriots have replacements in place like QB Jacoby Brissett, Gillislee, White, Cooks, and rookies OT Tony Garcia and OT Conor McDermott. There’s still room for extensions with Edelman and Solder (extensions that I believe will happen mid-season), but the Patriots have constructed a roster that is prepared and able to compete if those players depart.

3. It feels like the Patriots are setting up some roster continuity for the remainder of Tom Brady’s career. While Brady says that he wants to play until he’s 45 (or 75 in his latest video), no quarterback has thrown over 300 pass attempts in a single season after the age of 41.

Brady will be 40 in 2017, 41 in 2018, and 42 in 2019.

The Patriots are setting up Brady to have the best possible supporting cast for the next two seasons and anything beyond that two-year window is uncharted territory. There’s a chance Brady could still be playing at an extremely high level and that he won’t need as many elite options surrounding him on offense.

Or perhaps Brady will drop from his annual top three status into the top 10 or so- and then the Patriots would be in a position to retain Brandin Cooks and whatever other offensive players to supplement Brady’s theoretical drop in performance.

4. The Patriots are not able to extend Shaq Mason the same way they extended David Andrews, despite both players entering the league in 2015 and having two seasons under their belt. Why? The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) prevents teams from negotiating with drafted rookies until after three seasons:

Article 7, Section 3, (k) Renegotiations. (i) A Rookie Contract for a Drafted Rookie may not be renegotiated, amended or altered in any way until after the final regular season game of the player’s third contract year. (ii) A Rookie Contract for an Undrafted Rookie may not be renegotiated, amended or altered in any way until after the final regular season game of the player’s second contract year.

Mason signed a 4-year, $2.7 million contract as the 131st overall pick of the 2015 NFL Draft. Andrews is slated to exceed Mason’s career earnings in his fourth NFL season- and there’s a chance that Andrews already surpassed Mason’s career earnings with his signing bonus.

Andrews’ full NFL contract with the Patriots will span 6 years for $10.6 million, with a chance to make up to $12.6 million with incentive escalators. For comparison, Patriots 2015 first round pick DT Malcom Brown’s rookie contract could be a 5-year, $15.0 million deal, depending on the value of his fifth-year option.

5. Andrews was going to be a restricted free agent after the 2017 season and the Patriots were likely to slap the second-round tag on him, for roughly $3 million, and very few teams would be willing to give a second round pick for Andrews’ services.

In other words, the Patriots controlled Andrews’ for the next two years at roughly $3.6 million.

If Andrews hit unrestricted free agency, he might be able to land a contract between $2.5-$5.0 million per year- the 10th-15th ranked center contracts in the league- which is a pretty wide range. Andrews gave up that potential upside for immediate financial security.

And if we consider that the Patriots weren’t going pay Andrews more than $3 million for his restricted free agent 2018 season, just like they weren’t going to pay CB Malcolm Butler more than they had to, then we can cut up Andrews’ three-year extension into his “restricted” 2018 year and then a two-year “unrestricted” component.

That “unrestricted” component could be viewed as a two-year, $6 million deal that could earn up to $8 million with incentives- which seems extremely reasonable for a player like Andrews.

6. This deal should absolutely be sent to Malcolm Butler’s agent because Butler and Andrews are in a similar place with potential for two more years under the Patriots control. But unlike Andrews, who had the remaining year of his rookie contract and his restricted free agent year, Butler has his restricted free agent year and then the franchise tag hovering over his free agency.

Butler is slated for $3.91 million in 2017 and then the franchise tag for cornerbacks should be around $14.5 million. Like Andrews’ deal with a “restricted” and “unrestricted” component, we can cut up a Butler deal in a similar way.

For the two seasons spanning 2017-18, Butler shouldn’t expect more than $18.5 million total, and then any future years should align with his open market value of roughly $12-$13 million per season.

Andrews took a discount of roughly 25% in order to sign his extension, but the extension includes incentives so he can make that value back. Butler would likely want the money full guaranteed, but that 25% discount is something to keep in mind for the Patriots a potential extension with Butler.

A 4-year, $40 million restructure/extension for Butler, with an extra $8 million in incentives would seem to be a comparable deal to what Andrews signed. Whether or not that’s a fair deal is up for discussion.