Tom Brady playing hardball for first time in his career and betting on 42-year-old self

Ryan Hannable
August 05, 2019 - 3:41 pm
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This is Tom Brady’s 20th year both in the NFL and with the Patriots. For the vast majority of those years, the quarterback has been the ultimate team player and company man.

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Brady has undoubtedly been the best quarterback in the game during the Patriots’ recent run of success, but his salaries haven’t matched that. From 2015-18 they ranked 11th, 16th, 12th and 19th in the NFL. The quarterback was willing to take less in order for the team acquire other talented players.

This was all part of Brady’s legacy, but now it appears he’s changing his ways.

For the first time in his career, the Patriots quarterback seems to be using his leverage against the organization that drafted him in the sixth round the 2000 NFL draft.

Details are emerging when it comes to his “contract extension” that was done over the weekend. According to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport, when he signed the two-year extension, there was language that the final two years (2020 and 2021) are to be voided after the 2019 league year ends, and Brady will become a free agent. In addition, the Patriots cannot place the franchise or transition tag on him.

“It's a unique situation I'm in,” Brady told reporters in Detroit Monday. “I’m in my 20th year with the same team. I'm 42 years old, so pretty much uncharted territory I think for everybody. I'm going to go out there and do the best I can this year and see what happens.”

He added: “Like I said, there's a lot of guys who have one year left on their contract. I've got one year to go and we'll see what happens.”

Without a proven backup or young quarterback ready to take over in place, it seems clear the Patriots want Brady to be under center beyond this year. But, as is always the case and has been for years, on their terms. 

The Patriots have known that 2019 was the final year of Brady’s contract, so it wasn't like they didn’t know this was coming. Brady has never gone into a season in a walk year, so it’s obvious the two sides have been discussing what to do for at least some extended period of time. 

Based on past deals, it’s likely the Patriots were willing to add 1-3 years to his current contract, but like we said before, on their terms. It’s unclear exactly what they were willing to offer, but based on the deal that was signed over the weekend, it seems like it wasn’t high enough for the 42-year-old to agree.

Seemingly for the first time in Brady's career, he's not letting the Patriots dictate how things will go. He's using his own leverage. Now, he will be a free agent for the first time in his professional life and has the potential to allow the market to determine what he’s worth. 

If Brady goes out and has another year like he has the past few, teams will certainly come calling as soon as midnight hits March 16, the date teams can contact players who will officially become free agents on March 18. If he suddenly takes a step back and does not perform like he has, then perhaps the interest won’t be what he thought and he could be forced to take less than what he had hoped for from the Patriots, or even another team.

Also, imagine how Patriots fans would react next March to seeing a report that Brady was in negotiations with another franchise. Everything would be spun against the organization for not doing what it needed to do to ensure Brady was under contract for the years to come like they had done in every other instance before.

Brady hitting free agency, or even talking with other teams, does not mean at all that this is his last year in New England. 

We’ve seen countless times how Bill Belichick approaches free agency with his own free agents. He allows them to test the market and what their worth is, and then come back to the organization where it either comes close to matching or moves on if the number is higher than it wants to go.

The key here is Brady ultimately is allowing for his 2019 season with the Patriots to determine how much he makes in 2020 and even beyond. If this is what is taking place this offseason, it’s likely what will happen every offseason until Brady retires.

Brady acknowledged he’s in a unique situation, but for really the first time in his career he is betting on himself and not being the company man he’s known for.

Will it pay off for him in the end? Check back next March.

Related: Despite 'contract extension,' Tom Brady reportedly will be free agent following 2019 season