Tom Brady’s final contract more a curiosity than a controversy

Tom Brady’s final contract more a curiosity than a controversy

With Bill Belichick telling his team “Smell ya later!” on Monday, the Patriots are entering an approximately 30-day stretch of quiet season.

When they get back, a primary piece of business to attend to will be Tom Brady’s contract, which expires in early March.

With ink drying on new deals for Carson Wentz, Ben Roethlisberger and Russell Wilson and the going rate for the league’s best quarterbacks being north of $33 million per year, Brady’s new (and presumably final) deal will be fascinating when it’s finalized.

What year will it expire? We need to order black bunting to encircle the six-state region ASAP.

And will Brady be paid commensurate with great quarterbacks like Wilson, Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers, who’ve accomplished a fraction of what Brady has?

Brady’s never played a regular season game in the “walk year” of a deal. The closest he came was in 2010. That year, wrangling that was causing some friction in the spring continued all the way through training camp and to the eve of the season.

A Brady car accident on the Thursday before the opener pushed negotiations over the finish line, Robert Kraft told the New York Times.

It’s not going to get like that this time. Brady adroitly dealt with a flurry of contract questions at minicamp last week, saying, “I don’t think about it too much. I think those things work themselves out."

In late January, Jonathan Kraft indicated a deal could/would/should be done by the start of training camp.

The most revealing statement made by Brady this offseason came when he was on with Jimmy Kimmel. Asked why he isn’t the highest-paid player in the league, Brady said, "That's a good question. That's usually, when I don't want to answer a question, I always say, 'That's a good question.' I think the thing I've always felt for me in my life, winning has been a priority. And my wife [model Gisele Bundchen] makes a lot of money. I'm a little smarter than you think."

The allusion to being smart may have simply meant he married well, but it could also refer to the off-field pursuits he’s got with the growing TB12 empire and a media production company.

Between that, the lack of an obvious successor and a sense in the building that Brady and Bill Belichick are in as good a place in their relationship as they’ve been in some time, there’s really no angst to these proceedings.

Brady beat back the Jimmy G. challenge from 2014 to 2017. During that time he was in a very real fight to prove he deserved to finish his career in New England. Think about it: Brady convinced Belichick to go against the circle-of-life philosophy he’d adhered to his entire career from Kosar to Bledsoe to Mankins and Milloy. And when Belichick relented, he didn’t do so without reservations.

All that’s now passed.

If the Patriots see Jarrett Stidham as his successor, that’s fine but by the time Stidham could conceivably play as well as Brady, Brady will be near the finish line. Maybe Belichick too.

It’s a matter of “when” not “if” with this last deal. And when it does come down, we’ll have a timeline for Brady’s final act.

Click here for Phil Perry's post-minicamp Patriots 53-man roster projection>>>>

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Could Patriots ranking among dead money leaders cost team in 2020?

Could Patriots ranking among dead money leaders cost team in 2020?

The New England Patriots have won six Super Bowls over the last 20 years in part by spending wisely.

Is that all about to change?

The Patriots currently have the least amount of cap space of any NFL team at $1.85 million, per Spotrac. Part of the reason for that is the amount of money they're paying to players who won't play for them in 2020 -- otherwise known as "dead money."

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In fact, New England currently owes $24 million in "dead money," which according to Spotrac puts the team in dubious company.

Let's just say the Panthers, Jaguars, Rams and Dolphins aren't expected to be Super Bowl contenders in 2020.

And if the last four seasons are any indication, the Patriots would be bucking a trend just by going 9-7 in their first season of the post-Tom Brady era.

Brady is the primary reason why New England is in this position: He accounts for $13.5 million of that $24 million number, while Antonio Brown is next-closest with $4.5 million in dead money owed.

But such was the contract that Brady signed last August that gave him a potential out in 2020 -- one he took to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers rather than take another pay cut to stay in New England.

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The Patriots, who have signed all of their 2020 draft picks, still can create extra cap space by trading or extending offensive guard Joe Thuney, who currently has a $14.7 million cap hit that's second-highest on the team.

New England also could restructure the deals of several other players -- like it did recently with Patrick Chung -- to free up more space.

That dead money isn't going away, though, so Bill Belichick and presumptive starting quarterback Jarrett Stidham have another historic precedent to overcome this season.

What's with Jarrett Stidham's surprisingly strong 2020 NFL MVP odds?

What's with Jarrett Stidham's surprisingly strong 2020 NFL MVP odds?

Christian McCaffrey led the NFL in total scrimmage yards in 2019. Jarrett Stidham attempted three passes that weren't intercepted.

Both players share the same odds to win 2020 NFL MVP.

That's right: The New England Patriots' second-year quarterback, who has yet to start an NFL game after backing up Tom Brady last season, is listed at +5000 to win the NFL MVP award at DraftKings Sportsbook.

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Stidham shares those +5000 odds with eight other players. Here's the list:

Josh Allen, QB, Bills
Saquon Barkley, RB, Giants
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, 49ers
Derrick Henry, RB, Titans
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers
Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons
Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions

To reiterate: Stidham (who might not even start in Week 1) has the same chance to be named the NFL's best player as the league's rushing title holder (Henry), a former Rookie of the Year (Barkley) and the guy who was supposed to be Brady's heir apparent in New England (Garoppolo).

How is this possible? It's all about expectations.

Many expect the Patriots to nosedive following Brady's departure to Tampa Bay. But if Stidham can guide New England to a winning record or even a playoff berth, he could gain traction as a dark-horse MVP candidate who worked wonders with an offense lacking elite weapons.

Considering Bill Belichick's Patriots went 11-5 with Matt Cassel after Brady got hurt in 2008, that scenario isn't totally far-fetched.

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Of course, there still are 11 players with better MVP odds than Stidham, including Brady, whose +1600 odds rank him behind Dak Prescott (+1400), Russell Wilson (+800), Lamar Jackson (+700) and favorite Patrick Mahomes (+400), per DraftKings Sportsbook.

But it appears there's faint optimism among oddsmakers that "The Stidham Plan" will pay off in a breakout season for the 23-year-old QB.