According to Sports Illustrated's Peter King, New England Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady signed a contract extension with the team this week. Brady's extension is for three seaons and is worth just $27 million. Considering the going rate for quarterbacks in today's NFL, that is significantly less than Brady could receive elsewhere and actually alleviates the pressure on the Patriots when it comes to cap concerns. Brady's deal will save the Patriots $15 million over the next two seasons, $8 million this year and $7 million next season.
Brady is rightfully being lauded for settling on a much smaller figure than he is actually worth, but it is important to understand that the Patriots desperately need this financial relief as their window is closing. The now 35-year-old's new contract will carry him through to his 40th birthday. Despite how he has played in recent years and throughout his career, it's unrealistic for the Patriots to expect Brady to still be playing to a high level late into his thirties. It is most likely that his next two seasons will be his last two chances to finally win that fourth Super Bowl ring.
With cap hits south of $15 million over the coming years committed to their quarterback, a significantly lower number than that of most top-tier starting quarterbacks in the league, the Patriots have the flexibility to address all of their needs and retain all of their own assets this off-season. First and foremost, Brady's commitment to the franchise must be rewarded with a deal for his most favored target, Wes Welker.
Welker is a free agent wide receiver who connected on 134 passes with Brady and received over 190 targets from the veteran quarterback. There is no doubt at this point in his career that Brady has major input with the franchise on their off-season acquisitions and decisions. He should be one of the most vocal supporters of re-signing Welker to the long-term deal that he desires, or at least using some of the extra cap space to give him a bumper short term offer that he couldn't refuse.
The veteran possession receiver could easily be replaced, but his production wouldn't be replicated and his durability is unmatched throughout the league. Other receivers have played the same number of snaps as he has, but none have excelled as slot receivers and absorbed the punishment that he has in the Patriots' scheme. Welker and Aqib Talib are the Patriots' two primary short-term priorities, but for the long-term the flexibility with tying down Brady could allow them to save money elsewhere with their younger players on the roster.
Brady's extension was fully guaranteed, but because the money he is owed doesn't eclipse what they would expect to give to a quarterback over that time, they actually gain the opportunity to give more guaranteed money to other players and lower cap hits. Younger players such as Sebastien Vollmer, Devin McCourty, Stevan Ridley and Brandon Spikes would all welcome massive signing bonuses to settle for smaller salaries each season. That kind of money would offer them the security that they desire as younger NFL players, while also meaning the Patriots register less money against the cap each year.
If the Patriots do choose to make those moves over the next year or two, then either this season or next they could make massive waves in the off-season. Much like they did in 2007 to create the team that went 16-0 in the regular season before losing in the Super Bowl, the Patriots could aggressively add free agents and make trades to maximise Brady's final chances to finish his legacy.
That is the reason why Brady made this move. Outside of his obvious financial comfort which means he doesn't value financial gain like most people, Brady understands that his team has been lacking as an all-around unit in recent seasons. Bill Belichick has proven in the past that he knows how to create a championship caliber roster, Brady has given him the freedom to find the tools that will vault them back to that level. For a player who still desperately holds onto the pain of being overlooked in the NFL draft repeatedly, two recent Super Bowl losses must finally have taken a great enough toll on Brady to make him go all out for his ultimate goal. There is a certain selfishness to Brady's unselfish act. He craves winning one last Super Bowl more than anything else in his career, and likely as much as anything else in his whole life.
This is the type of move only a few quarterbacks in the NFL would do, if any other outside of Brady. By not strangling the franchise financially, the Patriots must repay Brady in the short-term with as aggressive an approach as is possible. The Patriots are entering the twilight of the Brady-Belichick era.