Tom Brady ‘extension’ fuels future uncertainty

Andy Hart
August 06, 2019 - 7:19 am
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Up until about a week ago, the idea of Tom Brady closing out his Hall of Fame career anywhere but in New England seemed unfathomable.

Now, though, after two uncharacteristically telling Brady press conferences and a two-year contract “extension” that more accurately shortens the quarterback’s ties to the Patriots than extends them, the idea of seeing the 42-year-old G.O.A.T. in another uniform in the future has to be considered at least a longshot possibility.

First, let’s look at the contract itself. Initially reported as a two-year extension that would pay Brady an extra $8 million this year and add on a couple years totaling more than $60 million, it was later revealed that the final “new” two years of the deal were nothing but salary cap bookkeeping placeholders and that they were “void” years that disappear at the end of the 2019 league year. Reports also indicated that the deal included provisions that if and when the deal runs out on the eve of free agency next offseason, the Patriots cannot use either the transition or franchise tag on Brady to keep him from becoming an unrestricted free agent.

Unless the two sides reach a more realistic extension between now and then, Brady is set to become a free agent for the first time in his 20-year career on March 18, 2020. Let the bidding begin!

Reading the tea leaves on what was clearly a more difficult negotiation than past team-friendly Brady deals, the quarterback got an increase in compensation that he certainly deserved, going from $15 million in take-home pay this season to $23. The team got the ability to go year-to-year with its aging quarterback, a flexibility that it apparently wanted. To give Brady the increase in pay, it came away with an extra $5-plus million in cap space for the here and now.

But the biggest issue may be that the team gave up its right to the franchise tag. Prior to this new deal, the fallback idea was always that the worst case scenario was that Brady would play next year on the franchise tag for about $34 million. Going year-to-year might cost the Patriots money, but it would never cost them their greatest player. Now, Brady and agent Don Yee have negotiated the right to negotiate right out of town.

That’s a scary proposition for Patriots fans. Probably for Robert Kraft and his family, too.

And it’s not just Brady’s contract that opens the door ever so slightly for a still-unlikely departure. His words regarding his contract and future over the last week-plus have been far more forthcoming and a bit foreboding than his zipped-lips contract answers of the past.

Answering questions about this contract on July 31 instead of deflecting them, Brady implored the media to “talk Mr. Kraft” about whether he deserved an extension. He also described his relationship with the organization with phrases like, “hopefully we can keep it going” and “we'll see how it goes.”

Then this week at joint practices in Detroit, a day after word of his new contract broke, Brady was even more forthcoming and, depending on your point of perception, talked with a bit more tone.

“Football is a tough business. It's a production business. I'm ready to go this year and that's really what matters,” Brady said. “That's where my focus is. It's a unique situation I'm in. 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.”

While he has just one more year under contract in New England, Brady reiterated his desire to play until he’s at least 45.

He was also asked if there was a sense of relief with the contract situation being addressed. Brady answered in vague, almost Belichickian fashion that’s warranted given the clear lack of certainty moving forward.

“It is what it is. That's a good line. Whoever said it, it's very pertinent. 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.,” Brady said.

Yes, we will. Maybe he’ll be motivated by the new deal the way he may have been when the Patriots drafted Jimmy Garoppolo a half-decade ago. Maybe he’ll go out and play at a Pro Bowl level for a team that competes for yet another Super Bowl. Maybe that will earn him the longer-term, mid-40s extension that he so clearly desires and probably so clearly deserves.

Or, maybe the door has been left ajar for the ending to his time in New England that’s anything but storybook, a conclusion he and his father, Tom Sr., have been alluding to for years. “It will end badly,” Brady Sr. said back in 2015 of his son’s time with the Patriots.

Some will disregard the possibility of Brady playing elsewhere in the NFL as nothing more than a media hot take, column fuel and talk-radio fodder.

But as Belichick has said so many times over the years and Brady has begun to parrot of late, it is what it is.

Related: Even Bill Belichick learned something new at the Patriots Hall of Fame visit