When Tom Brady and the New England Patriots agreed to re-work his contract last August, the final two years of the deal were added simply for salary cap purposes: in order to spread out his fully guaranteed signing bonus and lower its impact on the 2019 payroll, Brady’s contract runs through the 2021 season but the two final years will void once the NFL’s new league year begins on March 18. This means that Brady is scheduled to enter free agency in two months.
However, the current deal itself is structured in a way that allows the Patriots and their superstar quarterback to renegotiate or an extend before free agency opens. The secret lies in the agreed upon salary, as outlined by the Boston Sports Journal’s Miguel Benzan: even though it eventually voids, Brady’s current deal includes salaries of $30 million and $32 million for the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Those are key for a potential restructure.
How come? The collective bargaining agreement between the league and its players prohibits contract restructures within one year from each other — with one exception as former NFL agent Joel Corry recently pointed out: if the aggregate salary cap numbers do not go up in the years remaining on a contract, teams and players can renegotiate. Given how high Brady’s salaries are for both 2020 and 2021, such a negotiation can take place no problem considering that the numbers will rather go down than up.
The two void years therefore give the Patriots the option to work out a new deal with the future Hall of Famer at any time, which means that they would not have to wait before the current one is set to expire in mid-March. This, in turn, gives New England more time to either strike a deal or get a feel for what Brady’s camp is expecting in terms of guarantees, compensation and contract length — something other teams will (at least in theory) have to wait for until the legal tampering window opens two days before the start of free agency.
While Brady certainly has no pressure to agree to an extension or restructure now, the Patriots would likely prefer getting a deal done before March 18. Not only would it keep other teams out of the equation and the price potentially in a reasonable range, it also would eliminate the void and keep the signing bonuses — $6.5 million for both 2020 and 2021 — spread out over two years instead of hitting the books for the 2020 season all in one $13 million chunk.
Given how the deal struck last August is structured, however, the Patriots and Brady’s camp have set themselves up to work out a new deal either through a renegotiation or extension before that day comes. The salaries for both 2020 and 2021 would then be brought down, while a new signing bonus would be added atop the old one while still keeping the salary cap hits manageable. Miguel, therefore, projects a deal to look something like the following two projections:
While the salary cap hits would still be hefty in both 2020 and 2021, getting Brady back without paying him top-quarterback dollar would be a best-case scenario for the Patriots. Committing to him through the two years, meanwhile, would satisfy the quarterback’s wish for long-term security. A win-win deal for both parties, but one that will not easily be reached. Luckily, New England and Brady’s camp have set up themselves to work on it before the start of free agency.