They say you can’t put a price tag on winning. Well, Tom Brady has, and it’s the equivalent of a franchise quarterback groupon for the Patriots.
If there already weren’t enough reasons to love the greatest player in Patriots history, TB12 has given us another with a team-friendly three-year, $27 million renegotiation/extension that should allow Wes Welker to stay a Patriot and coach Bill Belichick to apply some veteran spackle to his porous pass defense.
Brady reduced his cap hits for the 2013 and 2014 seasons from an onerous $21.8 million to a manageable $13.8 million this year and $14.8 million next season via his extension on Monday, giving the Patriots $15 million of additional cap space.
Like all powerful, rich, successful people, Brady has reached a stage in life where he wants what wealth, fame, or prestige can’t buy: a championship. He has an expectation that the Patriots will pay him for this Foxborough-friendly contract, not in signing bonuses and base salaries, but in 7 pounds of sterling silver known as the Lombardi Trophy.
You can’t help but applaud Brady for his unselfishness. In general, though, I believe athletes should get every dime they can while they can because of the ephemeral nature of their careers and the unflinching lack of sentimentality in professional sports.
Brady will be 40 when this deal ends in 2017, and his act of altruism won’t matter to the team if he can’t play then.
For Brady, this deal is about legacy and not liquidity. The man and his supermodel wife just constructed a home in Los Angeles that should have its own ZIP code and does have its own moat. Thanks to UnderArmour and UGGs and Dodge, Brady is not short on cash flow.
What he is short on is time.
It’s hard to call a 12-4 season with an appearance in the AFC Championship game a waste of time, but it was a waste of another year of Brady’s transcendent greatness. The wide-eyed kid with his hands on his head who won Super Bowl XXXVI will be 36 in August.
Like his internal clock in the pocket, Brady’s athletic biological clock is speeding up on him.
We don’t want to look back at the halcyon days in Foxborough with the same combination of fondness and ruefulness we do the Larry Bird Celtics, who left a banner or two unhung in the rafters because of tragedy, injuries, and Bird’s back breaking down like a Green Line trolley.
It’s now been eight seasons since the Patriots lifted a Lombardi Trophy. They’ve come agonizing close in the Big Game twice against the New York Giants, and if it weren’t for a ball that never should have been caught by David Tyree and one that should have been caught by his buddy Welker, then Brady might be the only quarterback in NFL history with five Super Bowl titles.
That’s what he wants. Already the winningest quarterback of the Super Bowl era, Brady wants to be the greatest Super Bowl winner in NFL history.
“All he cares about is winning,” said a source close to Brady. “He’s a hair’s breadth from five rings. He likes winning. He knows he’s done well for himself. He just wants to win. What makes the beat-up feeling after games tolerable is the adrenaline you get from winning. Just sitting on your pile of money doesn’t do it.”
Brady rarely interjects himself into the affairs of owner Robert Kraft and Belichick. He stays in his lane, but make no mistake: This extension was done with the expectation, if not the edict, that the Patriots don’t just use the savings to retain players such as Welker and Aqib Talib but also to obtain new ones such as Ed Reed or Dwight Freeney or Dwayne Bowe.
For the Patriots to win another Super Bowl, Brady can’t always be asked to hit the center of the dartboard every time; sometimes, just hitting the dartboard has to be enough.
Speaking of dartboards, there could be a few more with Brady’s face on them from his brethren around the league after this deal.
The goodwill Brady engendered by lending his stature and name to the players’ lockout lawsuit in 2011 might be a distant memory, especially if your last name happens to be Flacco or Rodgers.
This deal is great for the Patriots, but not the rest of the NFL, because quarterbacks set the market for player salaries.
Weakened as it may be, the MLB Players Association would allow contraction before it green-lighted this type of deal for one of its marquee stars.
Brady’s new deal is scheduled to pay him $57 million over five seasons, including the $30 million he’s owed from the final two years of his previous four-year, $72 million deal. That’s a pittance for a premier passer.
Even with the extra $3 million Brady picked up for redoing his deal, he’ll only make an average of $16.5 million the next two seasons.
Drew Brees is in the second year of the five-year, $100 million deal he signed with the Saints last July. Peyton Manning has a $20 million base salary this season from the five-year, $96 million deal he signed with the Broncos last season.
Don’t be shocked if Brady ends up renegotiating this renegotiation to get closer to what he’s worth if he’s still playing at a two-time MVP-level after the 2014 season, when the NFL’s stagnant salary cap could began to see some growth.
But Brady isn’t measuring his worth in money at this stage of his career.
He is measuring himself against the history of the game, against his boyhood idol, Joe Montana, and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw, the only two quarterbacks to win four Super Bowls.
The three-letter word Brady values most at this stage of his career isn’t p-a-y. It’s w-i-n.Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cgasper.