Reimer: Brady's incentive-laden deal casts more doubt than ever about his football future

Alex Reimer
August 10, 2018 - 11:11 am

Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports

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The Patriots pulled off an impressive feat Thursday. They managed to give Tom Brady the opportunity to earn more money and provide additional doubt about his long-term future at the same time. The two ideas are contradictory, but Bill Belichick is known for turning convention on its head. 

New England added $5.5 million worth of incentives to Brady’s deal in 2018, and none of the money will be earned easily. The incentives include top five finishes in QB rating, passing yards, completion percentage, yards per attempt and touchdowns, according to SI's Albert Breer. Each incentive pays $2 million if the Patriots win the Super Bowl, but the most Brady can earn is still $5 million, bumping his potential pay to $20.5 million. That would place Brady 16th among quarterbacks on an annual average basis, behind the likes of Kirk Cousins, Matthew Stafford, Derek Carr, Alex Smith and Joe Flacco. 

NFL analyst Ross Tucker called the terms “insulting,” and he’s right. The Patriots are going to make Brady prove himself this season. No free rides for the man who won the NFL MVP at 40 years old and threw for 505 yards in the Super Bowl.

In addition, there are no alterations to Brady’s salary in 2019. The Patriots truly seem to be handling Brady on a year-to-year basis, which Adam Schefter theorized with us on “Kirk & Callahan” Thursday. For those who saw Brian Hoyer complete three of his first nine passes for nine yards in the preseason opener, that’s a frightening possibility. The future starting quarterback for the Patriots is likely still on Summer Break. Hopefully he likes his roommate this semester. 

Over the last eight years, Brady has reworked his contract four times. The previous three agreements resulted in more years getting added to the end of his deal. In 2010, with one season remaining, Brady inked a four-year, $72 million extension –– briefly making him the highest-paid player in the game. Three years later, when Brady was 36, the Patriots tacked on three years to his contract. Even though two years were still left on Brady’s deal in 2016, the Patriots added on two more, keeping him here until 2019. That's where we still stand today. 

When the Patriots traded Garoppolo last October, it came with the tacit supposition that Brady would be sticking around for several more years, perhaps making a legitimate run at playing until he’s 45. But it’s apparent that belief hasn’t become reality. Schefter reported that some members of the Patriots organization were unsure about Brady even playing this season, up until he announced he was retuning in April.

The “Tom vs. Time” series chronicles Brady’s seeming change in outlook of his football mortality. In the first episode, which was filmed prior to the 2017 season, Brady touts his compulsive commitment to the game. “In the end, my life is focused around football,” he says. “It always has been and it always will be –– as long as I’m playing. I’ve given my body, my everything –– every bit of energy for 18 years to it. So if you’re going to compete against me, you better be willing to give up your life, because I’m giving up mine.”

That’s very different from the way Brady talks about football in the series finale, which was recorded in the aftermath of Super Bowl LII. “I’m sitting here, laying here three days after the year getting my Achilles worked on and my thumb, and you go, ‘What are we doing this for? Who are we doing this for? Why are we doing this?,’” Brady asks rhetorically. “You got to have the answers to those questions, and they have to be with a lot of conviction. When you lose your conviction, then you probably should be doing something else.”

Brady talked about the importance of spending time with his football, and true to his word, that’s what he appeared to do this offseason. The Patriots’ quarterback missed all non-mandatory team activities.

It’s clear the events of the 2017 season contributed to Brady’s newfound doubt. His reported rift with Belichick amplified over Alex Guerrero’s sideline banishment and spilled over into a bombshell feature story by ESPN’s Seth Wickersham, which includes team sources talking about Brady’s “increased fragility.” On the surface, the Patriots are committed to Brady than ever. But that’s not how it appears, and now the strange one-year incentive-laden bonus offers proof. 

The Patriots are usually one step ahead. But with Brady, they appear to be playing it by ear. One can't imagine this was their plan when they shipped Garoppolo to San Francisco. Something has gone wrong.  

This post has been updated

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