The NFL’s 2020 league year will officially begin exactly five weeks from today, which means that Tom Brady is a mere 35 days away from entering unrestricted free agency for the first time ever. But while the clock is running for both Brady and the New England Patriots to come up with a new contract, the 42-year-old and the organization with which he spent his entire career are reportedly not yet engaged in contract negotiations.
ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss and the Boston Herald’s Karen Guregian both reported on Wednesday that the two sides have still not met to discuss a potential new contract for Brady — despite both sides having incentives to get a deal done quickly: Brady would help the Patriots get a clearer picture of their financial potency heading into free agency, while the team itself would save $6.75 million against the cap if a deal is done before March 18.
However, the lack of talks up to this point is no cause for concern. After all, contract negotiations with impending free agents usually do not pick up until later during the offseason, something Mike Reiss also pointed out in his latest report on Brady’s contract situation:
This is commonplace based on the general flow of the offseason for most teams. The first priority is to close the book on the season. Then coaches usually take some time off. There is Senior Bowl and combine preparation. And soon enough, the focus will shift to free agency. This week, for example, the Patriots’ coaching staff is off.
The focus shifting towards free agency usually happens at the scouting combine, which will start on February 24 this year. Representatives from all 32 franchises and major agencies will unite in Indianapolis for the event and while talks between players still under contract and outside teams are not permitted at that point under the league’s tampering rules, the free agency process is usually being kicked into another gear around that time.
For Brady and the Patriots, this means that their own talks will likely start in late February or early March — something New England head coach Bill Belichick and team owner Robert Kraft will likely push for. After all, the team would prefer to get an early feel for the quarterback’s intentions and asking price considering that the entirety of his signing bonus proration will hit the team’s books if he is not signed by the start of the 2020 league year.
This means that the Patriots are looking at a $13.5 million dead cap charge unless a deal is struck before the clock strikes 4:00 pm on March 18. That number would go down to $6.75 million to give the team some extra flexibility as it relates to its other free agents and Brady’s wish to improve the weaponry around him. At this point in time, however, the two sides have not yet discussed any of this or the perimeters of a potential deal.
That being said, as Brady pointed out during an interview with Westwood One on Super Bowl Sunday, he and the Patriots have been in touch during the offseason: “I am not going to elaborate much more than that, but yes, I have. I think that is a pretty normal thing for me. [...] These are people who have been a part of my life for a very long time. I think they know how I feel about them and I know how they feel about me. We’ve always had a great relationship and we always will.”
Long story short: there is no need to worry about any inactivity between the two sides just yet. While 35 days is not a long time to hammer out a contract — or decide to move on from the best player your team has ever had — it is still sufficient to get one done.