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Tom Brady’s Extension: The Patriots Always Win

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The other night the Patriots did something that helps their chances more than any play, call, coaching decision, or game possibly could in 2013: They extended their Hall of Fame QB on a below-market deal and cleared a TON of salary cap space in next few years to give them flexibility and allow them to keep their best players and contend, as usual, for a Super Bowl title.

The basics of the deal are simple: Three years, $27 million get added to his contract (which had previously been a 4/72 extension that set the benchmark for Manning’s Colts contract’s average value of $18 million), extending Brady through 2017, when he will be 40. Looking just at that, it’s easy to say Brady is being unselfish, or maybe just call him honest for admitting that he’ll be in decline as he ages to 40 and that he’ll be worth less money. In reality, they’ll probably give him more money in those years with a future renegotiation, but even if they don’t, it’s a brilliant move now, and it’s the exact opposite of all the restructurings that other teams are doing that just push more and more bonus money into future years, creating enormous cap numbers like the $26.4 million that’ll be on the Saints’ books for Drew Brees in 2015 (or like whatever absurd figure will be required in the later years of the pending Flacco mega-deal if the first year or two is supposedly “cap-friendly” as folks keep saying). Instead of just converting salary to bonus and sticking more money into the remaining years of an existing contract, the Patriots get to push it farther into the future, but in reasonable numbers.

Instead of a cap hit for 2013 of $21.8 million, Brady now occupies just $13.8. His cap number is similarly manageable for the duration of his contract; nice easy math places it at 13,14, and 15 million in the final years (with $6m bonus proration and salaries of 7, 8, and 9 million dollars). In exchange for (maybe) taking less in the end, Brady gets a $30 million signing bonus now. The Patriots aren’t without risk here, though. If Brady retires, the $30m bonus prorations will still come into play. They could still face a year of cap hell if Brady doesn’t play til age 40. But that’s no more risky a bet than any other QB contracts. It’s a lot safer than the pending Flacco deal, if you ask me.

The Patriots get to keep a QB and Brady gets to look unselfish. But more importantly, Brady gets to keep his weapons, because now the Patriots have eight million more dollars under the 2013 cap.

Even more importantly, the Patriots can once again point to Brady’s contract – as they did nearly a decade ago – as an example of a player putting the team ahead of money. Basically, they can squeeze other guys into taking less too. And they may actually be the only team to ever truly get multiple players to actually take less money in exchange for a greater shot at a title, rankling agents everywhere.

The Patriots haven’t had the same luck/talent/synergy with their defense that they had a decade ago, but they’re still kicking everyone’s ass when it comes to decision making. Even if Brady re-re-negotiates to a market-level deal for the final three years of his career, this deal is a huge help to their chances, and it’s a better and more useful re-structuring than the ones we see every few days (most of which have been the Steelers, at least so far) from other teams.

There’s nothing tricky or novel here, contract-wise. It’s just an example of a great working relationship between a dominant team that never makes mistakes and a dominant player that almost never makes mistakes. Kudos to the Patriots and to Brady for being smart and patient enough to get this done. Everybody wins. In New England, anyway.

Feb 27, 2013