One week before the start of the NFL’s so-called legal tampering period, all eyes are on the biggest member of this year’s free agency class: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Negotiations between the future Hall of Famer and the team with which he spent his entire 20-year career up until this point have not yet taken off — the unclear labor situation may play a role in this — but reports out of Foxborough have still been plentiful.
The latest of which comes courtesy of ESPN’s Field Yates, who suggested over the weekend that the Patriots may not be the ones to blame for taking a slow approach to Brady’s free agency (text adapted from social media speech):
During last training camp, Brady and the Patriots discussed a new deal, including a multi-year extension. Brady’s preference was to not add any years to his deal and include a no-tag provision in his deal to ensure him the right to test the market if he desired. Early in camp, the Patriots gave Brady his request for total freedom after 2019. Brady now has that opportunity to be a free agent.
Many have wondered when the Patriots will make their offer to retain Brady, something that they did in August already. In essence, the next step is Brady conveying what he wants in a new deal from the Patriots, not the other way around, as the team has previously presented him an offer, but Brady wanted to test the market, which he now has the chance to do.
The chance for Brady to return to New England is of course possible, but an important step in that process is an understanding for the team of what Brady is seeking in a new deal.
As you may remember, the Patriots and Brady agreed to a new contract last August that extended the quarterback through the 2021 season but only through the inclusion of void years that will be triggered if he hits free agency on March 18 of this year. Furthermore, a no-tag provision was added that prohibits New England from placing the franchise or transition tag on the 42-year-old — thus creating a much more natural market for him.
Brady’s agent, Don Yee, has reportedly already been in touch with other teams at the scouting combine in Indianapolis in late February/early March so his camp should have a broad understanding of how a potential market might develop. Next week’s legal tampering window might add further pieces to the puzzle and give both Brady and the Patriots a framework around which to construct a contract extension to keep him in New England.
The Patriots, of course, have plenty of motivation to get such a deal done before the start of free agency: as part of Brady’s renegotiated contract last summer, a new signing bonus was added and prorated over the remainder of the deal. In case it voids on March 18, however, the entirety of this bonus — $13.5 million — will hit the team’s 2020 salary cap; if a new deal is agreed on before that it will remain split up over the 2020 and 2021 seasons.
Needless to say that both the Patriots and Brady will be active over the next week, with the veteran passer apparently evaluating how his market develops.
Of course, how his former offensive coordinator Charlie Weis recently pointed out during an appearance on Sirius XM NFL Radio, nobody knows anything just yet. Weis spoke about a text message he exchanged with Brady: “I do have one bit of scoop for us. I’ve been texting with Tommy. I don’t pass along these conversations, but one thing he told me — ‘Nobody knows anything. So anyone who is telling you they know, they don’t know.’”
With free agency a mere nine days away, the outlook remains the same: everything is on the table, and the two sides need to figure out what they want and expect from each other.