Over the weekend, first reports about the looming free agency of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady came out. The team might be willing to pay the soon-to-be 43-year-old more than $30 million per year to stay in New England, while Brady himself is apparently not primarily focused on money but rather the talent level surrounding him and, as NBC Boston’s Tom E. Curran put it, an “appreciation for what he’s done and can still do.”
The latter report also includes the following passages:
[B]y late Friday night, indications I’d gotten were that there will be real effort to keep Brady in New England. And Brady will give them their shot. [...] Brady hasn’t drawn a line through the Patriots on his list of possible destinations. Not at all.
Together with the other reports coming out of Miami ahead of Super Bowl 54, the following can be said: New England certainly seems to be willing to bring the best player in franchise history back into the fold, while Brady himself is entering the process with an open mind. The main questions to be resolved might therefore be the following, even when ignoring the obvious factor that is the money attached to a new deal for a moment:
1.) The state of the Patriots’ offense one year after it struggled to consistently produce.
2.) The “appreciation factor” and how it is tied to contract length and guarantees.
Over the next six weeks, New England’s brain trust and Brady’s camp will have to come up with a solution for both and the finances tied to them. It will not be easy, though. For one, the timing of the first point will be tricky: the Patriots cannot officially address the offensive talent until free agency begins on March 18, and will not be able to agree in principle to contracts until the start of the NFL’s so-called legal tampering period two days earlier.
At that point, Brady’s $13.5 million signing bonus proration looms on the horizon: if the two sides fail to come up with a new contract by the start of free agency and the new league year, the number will hit the team’s salary cap. If the Patriots, however, re-sign the future Hall of Fame quarterback before that, the proration will be split up in two equal parts of $6.75 million that will be on the books in 2020 and 2021. Timing, obviously, matters.
When it comes to the “appreciation factor,” the Patriots will likely prefer to keep guarantees relatively low, be it in terms of contract length and money (bonuses instead of straight-up guaranteed salary etc. might be the preferred way to go from the team’s perspective). Brady, however, will likely want to get a commitment for New England for the longish-term and until his oft-mentioned retirement at the age of 45.
Needless to say that both sides will have to do quite a bit of negotiating over the weeks to come. According to the man at the center of all of this, however, he and the Patriots have already started talking to each other: Brady appeared on radio Westwood One’s Super Bowl pregame show on Sunday, and told host Jim Gray that he has already spoken with the organization as the expiration of his deal is drawing closer.
“I have. Yep. I am not going to elaborate much more than that, but yes, I have,” said Brady when asked about his communication with the Patriots. “I think that is a pretty normal thing for me. Again, 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. There’s not much to say other than that.”
“There’s a lot again... everyone needs to take some time to evaluate where they are at and evaluate the decisions they need to make moving forward,” continued the 42-year-old. “The Patriots will do that. Every team will do that. The players who have the opportunity to be free agents will do that. And then when the time is right — I guess in six weeks from now — everyone will make their decisions.”
Decisions, as Brady noted, will not come until later in the process but getting an early start on negotiations is certainly the best thing to do for both the future Hall of Famer and the Patriots organization.