Patriots

From the Jets to the Pats: New safety Terrence Brooks making an early impression in first Patriots camp

From the Jets to the Pats: New safety Terrence Brooks making an early impression in first Patriots camp

FOXBORO -- At this time of year, everything we see on the Patriots practice fields should be taken with a grain of salt. But it's hard to ignore the timing of when we see some of the things we see -- even early in training camp. 

Take, for example, Terrence Brooks. 

The 27-year-old safety was signed by the Patriots this offseason after two seasons spent with the Jets primarily as a special-teamer. On Saturday, the first fully-padded Patriots practice, Brooks was on the field with Bill Belichick's defense -- and early. There were times he found himself alongside Devin McCourty. At one point on Sunday, he shared real estate with both McCourty and Patrick Chung. 

Brooks played just 69 snaps defensively last season. At this rate, he'll hit that number of 11-on-11 practice reps before the team heads to Detroit in a week.

"Definitely encouraging," he said. "It means I'm taking more steps to earn respect on this team. For the most part, I'm trying to take every opportunity that's given to me and make the most of it."

With Chung currently donning a red non-contact jersey, Brooks may be the beneficiary of some reps that normally would've gone to the 31-year-old. But Chung has been on the field for a fair number of 11-on-11 reps despite his jersey color, and Brooks continues to receive work.

"I'm just trying to keep stacking good days," Brooks said. "I'm just happy to be here. They believe in me. I wanted to come in here and show 'em what I can do. Try to limit the mistakes. Get better each and every day. It's been going well. Just trying to stack good days."

Brooks will fit into Belichick and special teams coach Joe Judge's plans in the kicking game, as he did in New York. But if he can provide some depth in an experienced safety group that includes Chung, McCourty, Duron Harmon and Nate Ebner (as well as younger players Obi Melifonwu, Malik Gant and AJ Howard), then he'll provide a good return on the two-year $3.25 million deal he earned in March. 

Brooks' athleticism and strong tackling ability might make him particularly valuable as a box safety. Chung is one of the most versatile players in New England's defense as a safety who can play like a linebacker role and still cover opposing slots. Taking on similar responsibilities would be a tall task for any newcomer, but Chung's role is one that has fascinated Brooks for a while. 

"Oh yeah," Brooks said with a smile. "For sure. I've watched a lot of film on Pat. I love how he plays the game. But to be honest man, whatever role they put me in here, I'd be happy to play it. The more I can do, the better it's going to be for me."

The more you can do. Sounding like a Patriot already. Hard to know who to credit for that, but Brooks says he's been trying to soak up any and every technique from the veterans he's gotten to know best in his short time with the team. 

"I can't complain one bit about those guys," he said. "They've been tremendous to me ever since I got here. They helped me every step of the way. Helped me get up speed very fast. Giving me tips here and there. But a lot of it comes from me watching them. I can pick up on so many things watching Devin and Duron and those guys, especially Pat, the way they use him all over the place. I'm just trying to take some of whatever they can give me and model it to my game and take it to the point to where the standard doesn't change out here."

Brooks knows there's a long way to go before the season begins, but between the help he's received from his new teammates and the confidence he's been given by his new coach, he feels as though he's in a good place. 

"It's been great," Brooks said. "Honestly, getting that recognition from coach Bill, it's great. I've been working hard throughout my whole career and it's awesome that he took notice of that and brought me on board with him and his team. All I can do is just go out here every day and make him proud."

Make Belichick proud? We sure this guy was a Jet? 

That's all in the past, Brooks insisted. No lingering hard feelings over the fact that he spent the last two years in Jets green -- after a season in Philly and two in Baltimore -- trying to beat up on Belichick's club and vice versa.

"Nah. I'm on a new team," Brooks said. "New beginnings. I'm not worried about the Jets and what they're doing. I'm focusing on my game each and every day. Whatever Bill tells me to do, I'm doing it."

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Where things stand between Tom Brady and Patriots as free agency looms

Where things stand between Tom Brady and Patriots as free agency looms

All’s quiet on the Tom Brady front at the moment.

Perfectly reasonable.

In contract negotiations, the Patriots are traditionally a team that waits … and waits … and waits … and then gets down to business clinically and dispassionately.

If an impasse hits, their approach is often, “See what’s out there. We’ll leave the light on for ya.”

They’ve done that with Moss, McCourty, Hightower, Bruschi and many others over the years. All came back and re-signed after brief free agent tours. Will they do the same with Brady?

Perhaps. But there are two big problems the team faces if it decides to do that.

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First, the Patriots can’t sit in the parking lot drumming their fingers on the steering wheel while every other team is in the store, trying Brady on for size.

They need to get in and shop for a quarterback too just in case Brady does decide to go to Indy, Tampa, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Carolina, Washington, Chicago or Miami. Saving Brady’s spot until he’s ready to answer? Dice roll. 

Second problem? The $13.5M that hits New England’s 2020 salary cap if/when Brady becomes a free agent on March 18 at 4 p.m. is a wrench in the works.

(SKIP ON DOWN IF YOU DON’T WANT THE BUSINESS BLAH, BLAH)

Need a refresher on why exactly that hit even exists? Here’s the simple summation from CBS’ Joel Corry where he explains the Patriots borrowing a bookkeeping strategy the Saints used with Drew Brees to give Brady a raise (not an extension) last August:

The Saints restructured Brees' contract last March for salary cap purposes by converting $16.2 million of Brees' $23 million in 2019 compensation into a fully guaranteed third day of the league year roster bonus. Since the roster bonus was fully guaranteed, it was treated like signing bonus under the salary cap where it was prorated over the life of the contract. The Saints added a 2021 contract year that also automatically voids on the last day of the 2019 league year. 

Brady's contract was reworked last August to raise his 2019 salary from $15 million to $23 million. Brees' most recent contracts with the Saints were seemingly used as a template in Brady's renegotiation. Two contract years for 2020 and 2021 with $30 million and $32 million salaries automatically voiding on the last day of the 2019 league year were included for cap purposes, so Brady's fully guaranteed $20.25 million roster bonus could be prorated over three years at $6.75 million annually through 2021 instead of just 2019. The renegotiated contract also contains a clause prohibiting the Patriots from designating Brady as a franchise or transition player.

The Patriots can’t play the same financial shell game. The expiring Collective Bargaining Agreement means teams can’t kick the financial can down the road into phony future years as the Patriots and Saints did with Brady and Brees.

If a new CBA is agreed to prior to free agency, that’s good news.

If not, they can play a new game with different toys using option bonuses or completion bonuses.

The issue with that is, the $13.5M cap hit from the voidable years and a competitive compensation plus making sure there’s room to get Brady better offensive support means a multi-year deal has to be done because his 2020 cap hit would be astronomical.

If a multi-year pact wasn’t what the Patriots wanted to do with a 42-year-old, they won’t love doing it with a 43-year-old. And if they do agree to a three-year deal, the team will then be in the uncomfortable spot of having to release Brady if he wants to keep on past 2020.

There is an existing sliver of cap-relief hope for the Patriots. According to our friend Miguel Benzan of the Boston Sports Journal (a crutch for me whenever I write cap-related stories), the Patriots could get credited for past charges against the cap related to Antonio Brown ($9M) and Aaron Hernandez ($3.25M).

I’m trying to find out if the team is anticipating that and/or actively trying to recoup. It would be a boon if that $12.25M were credited back before March 16, though, since it would nearly offset the Brady dead dough.

(REJOIN HERE IF YOU SKIPPED THE BUSINESS BLAH, BLAH)

So where do things currently stand? After conversations over the past few days, this is my understanding of where things are.

Negotiations will begin "in a couple of weeks." I interpret that as during or immediately after the NFL Combine which starts about February 26 and concludes March 1.

By that time, Brady should have back-channeled his way to an understanding of what’s out there. Last week, I wondered whether it was advantageous for the Patriots if teams did make their pitches to Brady before "legal tampering" begins on March 16.

My understanding is that the Patriots aren’t worried about other team’s financial pitches. Their business with Brady revolves around the direction of the 2020 offensive personnel,  Brady getting some input on that and Brady’s role in the team’s future. They aren’t going to be super-vigilant about tampering. 

Something worth noting is there is very little rancor right now. The situation is what it is. The sides are going to work to make it work. Why they are here, what could have been done to avoid this, who’s right, who’s wrong, who’s to blame? I’m not sensing it.

There’s been plenty in the past. Now – with Brady having the freedom to say, “No thanks, it’s been great…” and the team truly being in the “year-to-year” contractual situation they wanted, nobody seems to have an active resentment. Also, I think the gravity of what may loom – the specter of a historic 20-year run ending – has added an air of solemnity.

I’ve also heard we shouldn’t be expecting TOM BRADY FREE AGENT TOUR 2020: COAST-TO-COAST WITH THE GOAT! If Brady hits free agency, he may try to set up meetings at one location instead of creating a circus. That’s a “what I’m hearing…” so take it for what that’s worth.

Reiterating what I’ve previously reported but have had again mentioned, the “Patriots are willing to go north of $30M” report wasn’t something either side loved.

For the Patriots, it created a false expectation before any negotiations began and, from the perspective of the Brady camp, it missed the point of what his main issue is. 

Also, while negotiations haven’t begun, the team is plotting a course for adding players that fit Brady’s strengths to help on offense whether through free agency or trade. Tight end is a position of emphasis.

Finally, if Brady goes to another team? The people he’ll leave behind in Foxboro will be highly, highly motivated to have a 2020 season that will make Brady wonder if he made the right decision.

Report: Raiders prepared to offer Tom Brady two-year, $60 million deal

Report: Raiders prepared to offer Tom Brady two-year, $60 million deal

We have an actual dollar figure attached to the swirling rumors of various Tom Brady free agency landing spots.

The Brady-to-Las Vegas speculation has been out there since TB12 was spotted chatting up Raiders owner Marc Davis at the Connor McGregor-Cowboy Cerrone fight in Vegas last month. Now, veteran NFL reporter Larry Fitzgerald Sr. (father of the Arizona Cardinals wide receiver) reports that Davis' Raiders are prepared to offer TB12 a two-year, $60 million deal.

It's interesting to note that Larry Fitzgerald Jr., like Brady, is a long-time interviewee of Jim Gray on Westwood One's broadcasts of Monday and Thursday night NFL games. 

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While Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported on Super Bowl Sunday that the Patriots are willing to go beyond $30 million a year to retain Brady, it's unclear if New England would make a multi-year offer, since the face of the franchise, who'll turn 43 in August, essentially worked under a one-year deal this past season. 

Our Tom Curran has reported that while the Patriots will "extend themselves" financially to retain Brady, money is likely not the most important factor to the QB.

As Curran wrote Friday:

The persuasion in the Patriots pitch has to revolve around "who" and not "how much." The team that Brady plays for in 2020 won’t be the winner of a bidding war, it will be the one that provides the best ready-made landing spot to compete for a championship and have a shitload of fun while doing it.

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