Where the men that protect Patriots quarterback Tom Brady ply their trade, it’s all about leverage. At the line of scrimmage, the aim is to gain leverage and then use it to their advantage. Any offensive linemen will tell you that. The same is true when it comes to the negotiating table.
Coming off a fourth Super Bowl and a third Super Bowl MVP, Brady, who will turn 38 in August, is never going to have more leverage to extend his contract and possibly his career than he does right now.
He should take a page out of the David Ortiz contract handbook and use his championship heroics to tack another year on to this contract.
Brady and Ortiz are the two biggest active icons in Boston sports. They both perform in the clutch like they have Freon flowing through their veins. They’re both sartorial standouts. They’re both fiery competitors who won’t hesitate to trash-talk opponents. But they approach the business side of their professions differently.
Flexing his muscle at the negotiating table is not really Brady’s thing. He has always done what is best for the organization. In December, he had $24 million in fully guaranteed money in the five-year, $57 million extension he signed in 2013 reduced to being guaranteed only for injury, instead of skill, cap, and injury. That was money that Patriots owner Robert Kraft didn’t have to keep in escrow with the NFL.
Confidants of TB12 are quick to point out that there is no wing in the Hall of Fame for the highest-paid players.
But athletes on the wrong side of 30, even transcendent ones such as Brady, are a perishable item in the minds of their employers. It’s rare for an aging athlete to find him or herself in a situation where they have the upper hand at the bargaining table.
Ortiz understood that, and Big Papi pounced on it like a first-pitch fastball. Coming off a World Series MVP performance in 2013, Ortiz publicly politicked for an extension, even though he had signed a two-year deal the previous offseason.
Ortiz’s contract drive drew the ire of a segment of Red Sox fans and media who were indignant that Ortiz wasn’t content with the two-year deal he had gotten coming off a 2012 season that was truncated by a bothersome right Achilles’ tendon.
The dynamic designated hitter was shrewd enough to realize that at age 37, the same age Brady is now, he had to capitalize on his performance while he could.
So, he leveraged a postseason during which he hit .353 with a major league-best five home runs and a World Series during which he hit an absurd .688 and posted the second-highest on-base percentage (.760) in World Series history into a one-year extension with club options for 2016 and 2017.
That extension, signed last March, will pay the 38-year-old Ortiz $16 million this year.
Brady should follow in Ortiz’s (base) path, especially because he plays a sport where the contract might as well be written in invisible ink because owners can make the terms disappear.
Just like Ortiz in the Red Sox worst-to-World Series winner season, Brady was the fulcrum for the Patriots’ adding to their hardware haul.
He conducted the Patriots’ passing game in the playoffs with such aplomb he should get a call from the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
In the playoffs, Brady completed 68.9 percent of his passes with 10 touchdowns and four interceptions. He averaged 307 yards passing per game in the postseason. Twice the Patriots asked him to the throw the ball 50 times to rally them from double-digit deficits.
In Super Bowl XLIX against the Seahawks, Brady dissected the best pass defense in the NFL. He completed 74 percent of his passes (37 of 50) for 328 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions. In the fourth quarter he was nearly flawless, going 13 of 15 for 204 yards with two touchdowns to rally New England from a 10-point deficit.
In the AFC divisional playoff round against the Ravens, Brady was 33 of 50 for 367 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. He twice brought the Patriots back from 14-point deficits, authoring the biggest comeback in Patriots’ postseason history.
When Brady’s current contract expires, he will be 40 years old. He has set up his contract with reasonable salaries ($8 million, $9 million, and $10 million) and manageable cap hits ($14 million, $15 million, and $16 million) the next three seasons.
With body guru and spiritual career guide Alex Guerrero, Brady is attempting to stiff-arm biology. He wants to be the Nolan Ryan of NFL quarterbacks.
But elaborate diets, novel exercises, and neuropsychology sessions aren’t going to keep Patriots coach Bill Belichick from cutting ties if he sees slippage after the next three years.
Some dead money on the salary cap might give Belichick some pause, however.
The Patriots have already drafted Brady’s putative successor, using a second-round pick last year on Jimmy Garoppolo. At the time of the pick, Belichick cited Brady’s age and contract situation.
Brady’s contract runs concurrent to Jimmy G’s, expiring after the 2017 season. If there is anybody who knows how quickly Belichick will yank the car keys from the starter it’s Brady.
In the short term, adding another year to Brady’s deal could be a win-win.
It would allow the Patriots to lower his cap hit this year by converting some of his base salary to a signing bonus that could be pro-rated over four years.
Framing a baseball pitch isn’t foreign to Brady. He was drafted as a catcher by the Montreal Expos (now the Washington Nationals) in the 18th round of the 1995 draft.
Ortiz and Brady are both adept at producing under pressure.
Ortiz is also adept at exerting pressure on his employer to extend his playing days.
Brady should take a page out of Papi’s playbook.