When I first heard about Peter King’s report that the Patriots had signed quarterback Tom Brady to a three-year, $27 million extension, I assumed the deal was worth $27 million per year.
It’s not. For committing to the Patriots in the 2015, 2016, and 2017 seasons, Brady gets a total of $27 million.
It appears, as explained last night, to be nothing more than an effort to reduce Brady’s cap number in 2013 and 2014, the final two years of his existing deal. It’s hard to spread money over the years of a contract if the contract covers only two more seasons. Come 2015, the likely reality is that a new deal will be done — after the appearance that Brady has taken less is used to squeeze other players into doing the same thing, which the Pats did masterfully last decade.
Still, teams and agents are looking at the numbers and wonder what else could be going on. Whispers of a side deals already have begun in league circles, even though there is (and likely will be) no proof of a wink-nod arrangement that will see Brady get compensated in other ways.
Sides deals aren’t unprecedented in pro football. The Broncos lost a second-round pick, a third-round pick, and paid a $950,000 for violations relating to $29 million in deferred payments to John Elway and Terrell Davis during the team’s Super Bowl window of the late 1990s. Again, there is (and likely will be) no proof of a side deal in this case.
Now that more and more teams are pressed against the salary cap and trying to finagle spending space, suspicions of side arrangements and briefcases full of cash will return to the NFL — even if no team is ever caught or is ever guilty.
In Brady’s case, the facts as presently known raise natural red flags. At a time when the high-water mater for quarterbacks is $20 million, the notion that Brady would commit to playing for less than half that average over a three-year window starting three seasons from now makes no sense.
At a minimum, agent Don Yee has provided his competitors with more than enough ammunition for the inherently cutthroat game of chasing new clients. At a maximum, teams and agents will probe for something/anything to explain why Tom Brady was willing to sign a contract that pays him so much less than he’ll be worth starting two years from now.
Maybe, in the end, the explanation is that, given his wife’s obscene earnings, he’s willing to take a lot less money in order to help that Pats stack the deck for another Super Bowl run or two.