Patriots smart to keep playing hardball with Tom Brady, because they know he'll never actually leave them

Alex Reimer
August 07, 2019 - 12:45 pm
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The Patriots were able to give the best quarterback in league history a well-deserved raise for the upcoming season while not tying themselves to a 42-year-old pass-thrower for the long-term. On top of that, they gained some much-needed salary cap relief, perhaps opening up the door for a midseason return from the self-proclaimed “Mr. Reliable Robbie G.” 

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Tom Brady may feel dissed the Patriots didn’t sign him through his age 45 season, which is how long he says he wants to play. That is a perfectly natural emotion, considering Brady is the biggest reason for the organization’s six Super Bowl titles and $3.7 billion valuation. There would be no “Mr. Kraft” without Tom Brady; there would likely be little reverence for The Hoodie as well. 

Brady’s apparent annoyance at the ordeal was evident this week when he was asked about his faux extension. “It is what it is. That is a good line. Whoever said it, it is very pertinent," Brady told reporters. "Like I said, there are a lot of guys in the last year of their contract. That is the situation. I have one year to go and we’ll see what happens.”

Brady will earn $23 million this season, which places him sixth among QBs. Two void years were tacked on, allowing New England to create $5.5 million in cap room. The Patriots cannot franchise Brady at the end of the year, meaning the ground is set for him to become a free agent next March.

Those are frightening words to read, but in this case, the Patriots are calling Brady’s bluff. Barring injury or catastrophic decline, it makes the most sense for both parties to continue their relationship past the 2019 campaign. There is no obvious heir apparent to Brady, no matter how much fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham is apparently “turning heads” down in Foxboro this summer. And at this stage in his life, does Brady really want to pack up and finish his career with the Texans, Titans or any QB-starved club? TB12 has a good deal here. He’s free to miss voluntary offseason workouts and possesses a seeming subconscious understanding of the system and playbook. 

Plus, the flagship TB12 Sports Therapy Center is right across from Gillette Stadium at Patriot Place. No word on whether rent would increase if Brady were to bolt.

The reports of Brady and Gisele Bundchen house shopping in swanky Greenwich Conn. and Alpine, N.J., coupled with the A-list duo selling their Brookline estate, definitely make it seem like Brady is planning on living elsewhere once his career ends –– which will happen sooner rather than later. But there’s no reason why Brady can’t rent a pad in Boston while he finishes out his Patriots career. Too bad Rob Gronkowski already sold his Seaport space for a cool $2.3 million. 

For the last two years, we’ve heard incessant rumblings about Brady’s apparent unhappiness with the austere atmosphere in Foxboro. The seeming tension reached such a boiling point in 2018, author Mark Leibovich, who interviewed Brady for “Big Game: the NFL in Dangerous Times,” said the quarterback started telling friends he wouldn’t mind if the Patriots released him.

Of course, Brady wound up showing up to training camp on time last July, and agreed to an insulting incentive-laden one-year raise. He didn’t reach any of the five $1 million carrots that were dangled in front of him.

For somebody who's so perturbed, Brady keeps doing the Patriots lots of favors. 

The Patriots know it doesn’t make a lot of sense for Brady to play elsewhere. They’ll maintain the flexibility to go year-to-year, which is how the rest of Brady’s football career will play out, regardless of whether the team is able to franchise him. He will be 43 years old next season. Even the most desperate clubs almost certainly wouldn’t be willing to go beyond two years for his services.

Though Brady keeps talking about playing until his mid-40s, it’s possible some of that is TB12-branded bluster. Rodney Harrison said recently he thinks Brady isn’t demanding a multi-season commitment, because he is year-to-year as well. We know what Gisele desires for her husband, and it doesn’t include getting his head knocked to the turf.  

In a recent training camp scrum, Brady opined we are all “day-to-day.” He is right, and today, he remains quarterback of the Patriots. That will probably the case until it doesn’t make sense anymore, and it is impossible to project when that is. 

Flexibility is a synonym for pliability, after all. 

Related: If Danny Etling’s career path has taught us anything, it should be to never count him out