ALLEN PARK, Mich. — The morning after he and the Patriots struck a new contract agreement that gives him an $8 million pay bump this season, Tom Brady was clear, honest, and at ease about the fact that the deal doesn’t tie him to the team beyond this year.
“It’s a unique situation I’m in — 20th year with the same team and I’ll be 42 years old,” Brady said Monday after the first of three joint practices with the Lions. “Pretty much uncharted territory, I think, for everybody.”
Brady was set to enter the final year, full stop, of his old deal in 2019. Then on Sunday, the Patriots and his representatives finalized a new deal that technially runs through 2021 but is expected to be restructured next offseason.
Brady reportedly has salaries of $30 million and $32 million set in place for 2020 and 2021 in the new deal, but both are void years, which makes those figures little more than placeholders. The benefit of the void years is that they help the Patriots spread out Brady’s salary-cap hit and give him the knowledge that he’ll avoid the franchise tag.
If Brady didn’t want to be portrayed as essentially going year to year, he could have hidden behind all that nitty-gritty and pretended things were all hammered out for the next three seasons. Instead, he seems fine with the arrangement, in part a bet on himself, and had a sense of humor about it.
“I’m really not worried about it,” Brady said. “I’m secure for this year.”
Then he started to laugh, and added: “I think. At least I get a few first-team reps out there.”
Brady spoke glowingly about the Patriots, as he did before his salary was renegotiated. Bridging disagreements is part of negotiation, but Brady has been outwardly positive all summer and was never a threat to hold out.
“We’ve just had a great history,” he said. “You know I love playing quarterback here. I love this team, the organization, Mr. Kraft, Jonathan [Kraft], coach [Bill] Belichick. All the coaches, all the players.
“I mean, the focus is this year and what we’ve got to do, so that’s where I’m focused. That’s all that really matters in the end. That’s what this team expects of me, to put everything into it like I always have, and I’m really excited for this year.”
Brady said that his situation is like plenty of others in football, since there are many other players on one-year deals or entering the final years of their contracts.
“I don’t want to think that I’m any different than anyone else,” he said. “Football is a tough business, it’s a production business and I’m ready to go this year and that’s really what matters. That’s where my focus is.”
Of course, the idea that Brady is no different from the average NFL player is a load of hooey, and he’s never been a free agent. Still, his comments gave the impression that he’s happy with how things worked out. He did get a raise, after all. Brady’s teammate Kyle Van Noy said that’s easy to forget since people assume the money doesn’t mean much to Brady, but it’s worth remembering.
“Not many people said ‘Congrats’ to him because of all the money he’s made, but I went up to him and said, ‘Congrats, man. You made some more money,’ ” said Van Noy. “It’s always a blessing to make money.
“He’s been doing it for a while. I’m happy to play on the defensive side of him, go against him. He’s a phenomenal player. I’m excited to see what he can do at 42, shut some people up.”
That last point, that Brady is still motivated by perceived doubts, is relevant. Moreso than he would be if he were on a longer-term deal, Brady is staking his football future on this year, something that’s probably not a comforting thought to many outside New England.
“Hopefully I can be an inspiration,” Brady said of playing into his 40s. “That’s really what I’ve got a great opportunity to prove to a lot of people that they didn’t think I could do it and hopefully I can.”
Brady isn’t always thrilled to talk about contractual matters, but he was totally fine doing so Monday. The only thing he didn’t willingly elaborate on was whether or not he was happy the whole thing was over with.
After a pause, Brady said: “It is what it is. That’s a good line, whoever said it. It’s very pertinent. Like I said, there’s a lot of guys who have one year left on their contract, so the situation, I’ve got one year to go and we’ll see what happens.”
The author of that line, Belichick, for his part said he wasn’t going to talk about the deal beyond to say that it’s “always good to come to an agreement with a player, any player, so that’s a good thing.”
A good thing, even if it’s only for the short term.