With a laugh, Tom Brady lays onus for new contract at Robert Kraft's feet

With a laugh, Tom Brady lays onus for new contract at Robert Kraft's feet

FOXBORO – For about four seconds, Tom Brady’s guard came down.

Asked by NFL Media’s Mike Giardi on Wednesday if he deserves a new contract, Brady lapsed into a rarely-seen version of himself who can jokingly say whatever he wants without consequence.

It’s like he was Gronk with a good back.

“That's up for talk show debate,” Brady said, warming up to the contract question and playing along. “What do you guys think? Should we take a poll? Talk to Mr. Kraft, come on.

After that last bit, Brady’s out of body experience came to an end.

His desire made clear and responsibility for getting it done laid on the doorstep of his Brookline neighbor, Robert Kraft, Brady’s tone, facial expression, posture and hydration level all snapped back to normal Brady levels.

“Like I said, we got a great relationship, so we’ll see how it goes,” he said.

I wrote about the interesting contract standoff last week. Brady beat back the Jimmy Garoppolo challenge Bill Belichick presented him with and — having done that — Brady’s been waiting for a new deal that carries past the end of 2019 and ensures he retires a Patriot.

Instead, he’s been put off, mildly placated or — in the case of last year — downright disrespected with incentive-laden “sing for your supper” incentive bonuses. Bonuses he had no prayer of hitting after the team let Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola walk.

Brady continues to stiff-upper-lip his way through it but there’s no mystery to why he doesn’t have a new deal yet.

He turns 42 on Saturday. And, as onerous as his $27M cap hit is this year, signing him to an extension that will pay him upwards of $30M for his 43- and 44-year-old seasons gives Bill Belichick the vapors.

The reason the Patriots hung on to Garoppolo until Halloween 2017 was because they thought Brady might bottom out or get hurt. And that was two years ago. And for a team that had several proven receivers and a Hall of Fame tight end.

Now, with a worse complement of players around him, Belichick is still staring at his cards, fiddling with his chips and hesitating to ante up.

It’s as if Belichick has gently laid the gauntlet down at the feet of the owner just as Brady jokingly did on Wednesday.

Belichick isn’t going melt down if Kraft gives Brady a new deal before the start of the season.

But Belichick’s M.O. with aging and expensive players has long since been established. He takes them out behind the barn and returns by himself. Or he lets them play the contract out, see what other teams are willing to pay in free agency and then makes a calculated business decision.

If Brady is going to be the exception, fine. Belichick gets it. But my feeling is that he’s going to let Kraft do this deal so that Belichick has plausible deniability in case Brady faceplants.

And with the cast surrounding him, Brady is set up to have another down year relative to his normal output.

Last year, as the Patriots offense struggled without Julian Edelman and a limping Gronk, the team cycled through Eric Decker, Corey Coleman and assorted other receivers that couldn’t cut it. They finally settled on the troubled Josh Gordon as a solution. And it worked for 11 games. Until Gordon’s troubles resurfaced and he was suspended.

Fortunately, Dante Scarnecchia, Josh McDaniels, the running backs and the offensive line helped shoulder Brady’s burden. But personnel wasn’t cited as the primary reason the offense struggled. Brady was.

This year, they are worse on offense.

If Belichick was inclined to let it play out until Brady became a free agent and believed the market would be kind of soft for the 43-year-old, he’d probably be right.

So he’s doing business as business in the NFL is supposed to be done if you want to stay good for long stretches. Nobody knows more about staying good for a long stretch than Belichick.

Which is why, when Brady had his moment of clarity, he didn’t say, “Ask Coach…” Because he already knows the answer would be, “We’ll see.”

Phil Perry's latest 53-man roster projection>>>>>

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Here's why a lot of Patriots recent draft picks have Senior Bowl experience

Here's why a lot of Patriots recent draft picks have Senior Bowl experience

Bill Belichick was there. Josh McDaniels was there. The Patriots had a large contingent down in Mobile, Ala. for this week's Senior Bowl practices (the game will air Saturday on NFL Network at 2:30 p.m.), which should come as no surprise.

Just look at how the Patriots have drafted of late. 

In 2019, they selected Jarrett Stidham, Byron Cowart and Jake Bailey -- all of whom participated in the Senior Bowl. They also signed undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers, who played in the game. 

In 2018, they grabbed Isaiah Wynn in the first round, Duke Dawson, Ja'Whaun Bentley and Braxton Berrios after they'd competed in the Senior Bowl.

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Three of their four draft picks from 2017, plus two undrafted rookies, were in the Senior Bowl. 

From 2013-16, they brought aboard 20 Senior Bowl participants as rookies.

"The great thing about the Senior Bowl is that you're seeing some of the best players," Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio said last spring. 

"There have actually been some underclassmen who have been incorporated into that mix. So you're seeing them against good competition and it's a different dynamic or different situation that they've been placed in. You're kind of taking them out of their environment that they've been in and kind of giving them something new and seeing how they handle it against good people."

The small-school players -- or the players who are asked to do something they didn't do much as collegians -- are the ones who have an opportunity to really land on radars during Senior Bowl work. For the Patriots, who constantly harp on the benefit of having seen players work against great competition on a regular basis when they hail from an SEC program, seeing some of the best in the country work against one another matters.

"It’s one thing if they do it against a lower-level team," Caserio said back in 2016, when asked about the Senior Bowl. "I mean, look, not all teams are created equal. Not all conferences are created equal. That’s just a fact. We can’t control that. So when you can see them actually play against really good players or good players that are at a comparable level of competition that they’re going to see every Sunday, that has to be a part of [the evaluation], no question."

The next year, the Patriots took two Senior Bowlers from smaller programs: Youngstown State's Derek Rivers and Troy's Antonio Garcia. 

"Where [the Senior Bowl] probably helps a little bit is players on a lower level that maybe haven’t competed against the same level of competition," Caserio said back in 2017. "Obviously, they’re making a big jump. . . Garcia was down there. That’s going to be a big jump in competition because this is what they’re going to be playing against. 

"With all due respect to whatever conference Youngstown State is in, there’s not a lot of NFL players in that conference. I mean, that’s just the way that it is. You’re going to have to see him against NFL competition, which the Senior Bowl is usually a pretty good indication of that because you’re talking about the top seniors in the country. It’s a part of the process. You’re not making a decision based off of that, but maybe a player who doesn’t have as much experience against that level, you’re going to see how he fares, and then you just kind of continue to move forward."

Some small-school prospects who may have caught Belichick's eye this week? 

Dayton tight end Adam Trautman was already considered one of the better tight ends in the draft class and seemed to only help his stock.

Safety Kyle Dugger -- who hails from Division II Lenoir-Rhyne University -- impressed. Ditto for Division III offensive lineman Ben Bartch out of Saint John's, who saw rushers from Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, Ole Miss and other high-end programs and reportedly held his own.

Perhaps the most recent success story out of Senior Bowl week for the Patriots wasn't with a small-school prospect, though. It might've been with Shaq Mason, a guard coming out of a run-heavy system at Georgia Tech. The Patriots simply hadn't seen him do much in the way of pass protection for the Yellow Jackets.

But Mason got to the Senior Bowl, took to the coaching he received, and the Patriots took notice. 

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"The thing I’ll say about Shaq," Belichick said after drafting Mason in 2015, "is just watching him at the Senior Bowl, I mean it was only one week, but he made a huge improvement just in those, whatever it was, four or five practices, whatever it was down there. His stance is different. You could see each day progressively how he was taking to the coaching down there and his footwork and his hand placement and his body position. I know it was basic. It wasn’t like it was a big scheme thing at the Senior Bowl, but just doing things on a daily basis better than the day before, looking more comfortable doing them. And it was different than what they did at Georgia Tech."

Big school. Small school. Everyone had something to gain in Mobile this week. And that includes the Patriots. That's why -- with more time off this year than recent years -- they were well represented down there.


NFL Rumors: Patriots hiring ex-Rams assistant offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch

NFL Rumors: Patriots hiring ex-Rams assistant offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch

The New England Patriots reportedly have made an addition to their coaching staff.

According to Jim McBride of The Boston Globe, they've hired ex-Los Angeles Rams assistant offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch.

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Fisch's official role with the Patriots offense is to be determined. But now that there's an opening at wide receivers coach with Joe Judge joining the New York Giants, Fisch could be a candidate for the job.

He brings plenty of experience to the table having coached Denver Broncos wide receivers in 2008 and Michigan receivers from 2015-16. Fisch also coached Seattle Seahawks quarterbacks in 2010 and was the Jacksonville Jaguars' offensive coordinator from 2013-14.