ALLEN PARK, Michigan — Tom Brady isn't just any other player in the final year of his contract.
But as the 42-year-old comes to grips with the agreement he reached with the Patriots, an agreement he openly discussed as a one-year deal Monday, he spoke about himself as if he belonged in the same category as the legions of players playing 2019 for their next contracts.
"It’s really the reality for most guys in the NFL," Brady said following a joint practice with the Lions. “I don’t want to think I’m any different than anyone else."
The irony in that statement is that Brady's humility — the assumption that he could be cut just like anyone else if he didn't win his job year after year — is part of what has made him who he is. Yet at the same time that approach has helped him reach unfathomable heights, heights that somewhere in the back of his mind may have earned him more than what he just received.
"Football is a tough business," Brady said. "It’s a production business. I’m ready to go this year and that’s really what matters. 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."
Unchartered territory in one sense. In another, he's the everyman . . . in terms of his long-term contractual certainty, at least.
Brady can't be franchised, can't be forced into a one-year contract, and if he plays well he'll have significant leverage in negotiations. But for the first time in his career, he's playing for next year's deal. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reported on Monday that Brady's final two years on his contract void "automatically" on the last day of the 2019 league year, which will make Brady a free agent if he doesn't already have a new deal with the Patriots in hand by then.
“There’s a lot of guys who have one year left on their contracts,” Brady said. “I’ve got one year to go and we’ll see what happens.”
Many of Brady's teammates, of course, know how he feels. The Patriots have become the Patriots by showing calculated restraint in their business practices — even with critical cogs to the machine. Devin McCourty played out his contract year and ended up re-signing with the team in 2015. He's in a contract year again in 2019. Kyle Van Noy is in a contract year as well.
When Van Noy was asked on Monday if he was surprised Brady put himself in the same class as other players looking for their next deals, he smiled.
"It's funny you bring that up," Van Noy said, "because not many people said congrats to him because of all the money he's made, but I went up to him and said, 'Congrats, man! You made some more money.' It's always a blessing to make money."
Brady may have been looking for more than the $8 million bonus he received for 2019, but he's agreed to what he's agreed to. And he'll have to perform for his next payout. That's not the reality for most at his position. Even mediocre quarterbacks get long-term guaranteed money. But those quarterbacks aren't in their early-40s. So Brady will swallow hard, tell us "it is what it is," and play things out like he's anyone else.
Even if he isn't.
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