The biggest point of contention between Tom Brady and the Patriots isn’t necessarily money, but the commitment. Brady wants multiple years on his next contract, while the Patriots — assuming they even want Brady back — want to go year to year.
But it actually makes sense for the Patriots to give Brady a multiyear deal. They don’t have to actually commit two years to Brady, but the smart move for roster-building purposes would be to give Brady a two- or three-year deal.
Two reasons why:
■ It would be much better salary-cap management for the Patriots.
As I wrote last week, the Patriots and Brady have a deadline of March 17 at 4 p.m. — the date and time when his contract voids — to agree on a new deal because of salary-cap purposes. Brady already is going to take up $6.75 million of dead cap space next season, and that number becomes $13.5 million if his contract voids. If Brady doesn’t play next season, he still counts $13.5 million against the Patriots’ cap.
So if Brady signs a one-year, $20 million deal with the Patriots after March 17, his cap number would be $33.5 million, which would take up about 17 percent of the salary cap.
But a two-year deal with a large signing bonus and a low base salary would keep $6.75 million of cap dollars on the 2021 salary cap and give Brady a more reasonable number for 2020.
And the Patriots don’t have to actually commit two years to Brady. They could do another contract with voidable years to help squeeze him in under the cap in the present.
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■ The salary cap is about to explode.
Giving Brady a multiyear deal wouldn’t necessarily solve the Patriots’ cap issues with Brady, just kick the problem down the road to 2021 or beyond. At some point, the Patriots will have to take a large dead money cap hit on Brady.
But dead cap money may not be much of an issue in 2021 or beyond. The NFL is set to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement for the 2021 season (it may get agreed to this offseason), and new TV deals sometime before the 2022 season. According to a recent report from The Athletic, the TV networks may be paying up to 50 percent more than their current rates for the rights to the NFL, which has become the only reliable ratings-earner in all of television.
A new CBA and new TV deals should add billions — plural — to the NFL’s bottom line, which would result in an abundance of new salary-cap money. And Brady’s dead cap money hit wouldn’t sting so badly.
So if the Patriots are smart — and they usually are — they would give Brady another multiyear deal, with a big signing bonus and small base salaries, and push as much dead money as they can into 2021 or 2022, when the salary cap should be much larger.
Ben Volin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BenVolin.