Tom Brady has long expressed an interest in playing into his 40s. Not that there was much doubt, but it's now official that the Patriots are on board with that line of thinking.
A team source Monday confirmed Brady and the Patriots have agreed on a two-year contract extension that will keep the perennial Pro Bowl quarterback in Foxborough through 2019, when he will be 42.
While financial details of the deal aren't known, Brady had two years remaining on a pact that would pay him $9 million in 2016 and $10 million in 2017.
Brady joins safety Devin McCourty and tight end Rob Gronkowski as Patriots who are locked up through 2019.
The four-time Super Bowl champion was set to have a team-high salary-cap hit of $15 million for the upcoming season and $16 million for 2017 under terms of the five-year, $60 million contract he signed in 2013. Those numbers almost assuredly will be lower in light of the extension.
Eighteen quarterbacks are scheduled to have a higher cap hit than Brady for 2016, though that number is bound to change with restructures and releases. For example, Washington's Robert Griffin III will never see the $16.155 million he's scheduled to make.
Brady, a sixth-round pick in 2000, has renegotiated his deals to create cap room for the Patriots. The team has approximately $13 million in cap space and has five core defenders who are entering the final year of their deals: linebackers Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins, defensive end Chandler Jones, and cornerbacks Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan.
The NFL Players Association announced Monday the salary cap for 2016 will be $155.27 million.
The news of the extension comes just three days before Brady heads back to court against the NFL over Deflategate. This time, the league's appeal of Brady's overturned suspension will be heard in front of a three-judge panel in the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York.
The timing of the new deal could benefit Brady, who would have lost $1.88 million of his $8 million base salary if he were forced to serve the four-game suspension last season. Player salaries are divided by 17 weeks. If Brady loses the appeal, he would forfeit $2.118 million if he is still on schedule to make $9 million.
If the new deal decreases his base salary for 2016 — similar to his last extension when he played for a base salary of just $1 million in 2013 and $2 million in 2014 — he would lose significantly less money if he is forced to serve a four-game ban next season. If he plays for a $1 million base in 2016, he would lose just $235,294.
Brady, who turns 39 in August, has shown no signs of slowing in recent years. He is coming off an impressive 2015 season in which he led New England to the AFC Championship game, throwing for 4,770 yards, a league-high 36 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions. The 4,770 yards were the fourth-highest total in Brady's 16-year career.
In terms of service, Brady will become the franchise leader in seasons played when the 2016 campaign opens. Quarterback Steve Grogan (1975-1990) also played 16 seasons with the Patriots.
If Brady were to complete his new deal, he would become the fifth player (and only QB) in NFL annals to play 20 or more seasons with the same franchise, joining Cleveland's Lou Groza (1946-1967), the Rams' Jackie Slater (1976-1995), Washington's Darrell Green (1983-2002), and Detroit's Jason Hanson (1992-2012).
The Patriots have a history of having older signal-callers on their roster. Both Doug Flutie (2005) and Vinny Testaverde (2006) were 43 when they served as backups to Brady. Flutie retired after his season, while Testaverde played one more season with the Panthers.
Brady still has a way to go to become the oldest QB in NFL history. George Blanda, the Bears/Oilers/Raiders legend, played 26 seasons, finally putting away his cleats at age 48. For context, Blanda was used almost exclusively as a kicker over the final nine years of his career.
Playing into your 40s isn't commonplace, but it's not unheard of, either. In addition to Flutie and Testaverde, other notable quarterbacks who extended their careers into their 40s include Sonny Jurgensen (40), Earl Morrall (42), Mark Brunell (41), Steve DeBerg (44), Warren Moon (44), and Brett Favre, who retired for the final time at 41.
Additionally, active QB Matt Hasselbeck is 40, while Super Bowl champion Peyton Manning will turn the big 4-0 March 24. If Hasselbeck and Manning retire before the 2016 season, Brady will be the NFL's oldest position player.
Favre had perhaps the most success of quarterbacks after turning 40. He started all 16 games for the Vikings in 2009, throwing for 4,202 yards and 33 touchdowns. He led Minnesota to the NFC title game, where it lost to New Orleans. He threw for 2,509 yards and 11 TDs with 19 interceptions the next year, his final one.
Favre stands second all-time in passing yards with 71,838. Manning tops the list at 71,940 while Brady is No. 5 at 58,028.
Moon threw for 3,678 yards and 25 TDs as a 41-year-old with the Seahawks in 1997 but his production dropped off significantly after that and he played in just three games over his final two seasons.