Tom Brady wants to finish his career with the Patriots. The Patriots have said they intend to make sure he does exactly that.
But each day that passes brings Brady closer to playing a regular season game in the final year of his deal.
Which brings into play all that accompanies that reality. Risk of injury. Possibility of free agency. The mind-boggling fact a player who’s taken tens of millions less and helped earn the franchise hundreds of millions has to go hat in hand to get his last deal.
This is the best quarterback in NFL history on the most successful dynasty in NFL history. This final contract adjustment will be the transaction that keeps him from following legends like Joe Montana, Peyton Manning, Johnny Unitas and Brett Favre into a vagabond end to his career.
And the Patriots don't seem to have a cohesive plan on how they want to get it done.
There’s a perceived inevitability that Brady will get a new deal before the start of the season. My understanding is that timetable is no sure thing and that — until substantial progress is made — no outcome should be ruled out.
What’s the deal with the deal? The two sides are talking. That’s progress. That wasn’t happening prior to the Super Bowl. It wasn’t happening in March. It wasn’t happening in May. And Brady wasn’t discussing it at minicamp in June.
I haven’t gotten the impression it’s a Cold War but it’s not terribly collegial either. Which is status quo when Brady and his agent Don Yee pull up to the table and try to determine a fair wage.
There’s a salary cap to deal with and there’s Brady’s age to consider. And there’s the sense the Patriots aren’t sure exactly how to proceed and want to wait.
I remember speaking to Bill Belichick’s father in February 2002 on the day before Super Bowl 36. Steve Belichick said his son was the most decisive person he’d ever met. So how does one explain this foot-dragging?
Sometimes, not making a decision is a decision in itself. As in 2017 when the Patriots passed on trading Jimmy Garoppolo prior to the season, sat on him as insurance in case of a Brady injury/slippage and then dealt him at a reduced price to San Francisco. The decision to make wasn’t clear in April so the Patriots decided not to make one.
There must come a point, though, where Brady thinks, “What the hell?”
The five $1M incentives Brady was offered last year — of which he hit none — didn’t really sow seeds of gratitude .
Nor did the team’s efforts to replace him with Garoppolo from 2014 to 2017 and Yee — who’s also Garoppolo’s agent — has an understanding of how much the Patriots were willing to spend to keep Garoppolo around to watch Brady play out the string.
So we got ourselves a layered situation. And that’s why Jonathan Kraft’s answer of “let’s see what happens when training camp starts” from Super Bowl week is proving to be a little optimistic.
The Monday report by NFL Media’s Tom Pelissero that there’s no new deal “on the horizon” is accurate.
Belichick has encountered a lot in his NFL career, but Brady has become an unsolvable riddle. Belichick planned as if he was going to follow the Bernie Kosar/Drew Bledsoe route with Brady when he drafted Garoppolo. Brady beat that challenge back and sealed his own legacy and Belichick’s in doing so.
Now Brady’s 42, playing like he’s 32 and Belichick still seems to be waiting for some kind of epiphany before he tethers himself to a player Belichick is worried might start playing his age.
Robert Kraft has given every assurance that Brady is here for the duration. Brady wants the same. It’s only as complicated as Belichick decides to make it.
And — with training camp about to start — it’s way more complicated than it has to be.
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