The 2017 season didn’t end the way the New England Patriots had hoped, but they’ve already turned their focus towards 2018 and beyond. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, team owner Robert Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick, and quarterback Tom Brady will all meet this week to discuss a wide range of topics and to clear the air heading into next season.
On Sunday morning, Rapoport noted that the trio planned to meet this week to work out issues that overshadowed parts of the 2017 season, including “what to do about Alex Guerrero, Tom Brady’s trainer; how to get over some of the angst involving the trade of Jimmy Garoppolo, who by the way is now about to sign a long-term deal with the 49ers; and then does Tom Brady get a contract extension? He has two more years left. They think he’s going to play two years. Do they let him just play it out, or do they try to get him to cash in one more time? All of those things they hope will be sorted out this week.”
Rapoport also noted that the trio are expected to all return in 2018 and my interpretation is that a strong meeting this week should solidify their long-term future and could have been related to the team’s retention of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
The three topics for discussion are the three raised in ESPN’s big report by Seth Wickersham and while I think they’re all very real issues, I think they’re layered with different parties of interest and aren’t necessarily connected in a direct sense. Guerrero concerns Belichick and Brady; Garoppolo concerns Belichick and Kraft; and Brady’s extension concerns all three.
Belichick is likely to want assurance that Kraft will support a long-term extension with the next quarterback he deems good enough to be the heir to Tom Brady, while Brady will probably want clarity on his future and what Guerrero’s role can be with both Brady himself and the rest of the team.
The contract extension is probably the easiest of the three to sort through and the new deal was always going to take place during the 2018 league year. Brady has two more years on his contract with base salaries of $14 million in each season, so the Patriots are likely to want to convert his base salary to a signing bonus and add a couple seasons to reduce Brady’s cap hit.
Brady has signed five contract extensions with the Patriots and three came with two years left on his existing deal; the two that came in Brady’s final year include the extension of his rookie contract in August of 2002 and then in September of 2010 after he proved he could return from his torn ACL during the 2009 season. In other words, the Patriots would always rather extend Brady with two-years left on his deal.
Prior to the 2017 season, Rapoport reported the Patriots believed Brady to have 3-5 more years in the tank, which should be now interpreted as “2-4 more years.” The Patriots and Brady could reach a deal similar to his last two-year extension with an annual salary equal to the 10th-highest paid quarterback ($21 million per year) and the 5th-highest percentage guaranteed (roughly 70% or $29 million). That would be a slight pay-bump over his current extension and carry him to the full four years the Patriots anticipate Brady still playing.
Alternatively, Brady could also push for a top five annual deal for a contract ($22 million per year) and the highest percentage guaranteed (roughly 80% or $35 million) as he’s coming off an MVP season and definitely deserves top dollar.
The Patriots, for their part, could be interested in having a large portion of Brady’s 2-year extension and his age-42 and -43 seasons linked to gameday incentives to protect themselves from injury. So instead of having a high base salary, Brady could see a high per-game bonus every week.
But however it plays out, there’s precedence for Brady to sign an extension this offseason. Whether Brady and Belichick can find a solution for Guerrero and whether Belichick and Kraft can make sure the Garoppolo-scenario doesn’t happen again should be the more important focuses in their meetings this week.