The Patriots have dangled a $5 million incentive package for quarterback Tom Brady, which will add to his $14 million salary if he finishes in the top five in each of five key categories — passer rating, completion percentage, yards per attempt, touchdown passes, passing yards. The potential extra earnings won’t increase his cap number for 2018.
Field Yates of ESPN.com reports that Brady’s revised deal also converted $10 million of his $14 million into a signing bonus, giving him the cash now — and spreading the ensuing cap hit over the final two years of his current deal. This drops his $22 million cap number by $5 million for 2018.
But the potential incentive payments count immediately, given that they will be classified as “likely to be earned,” based on the fact that he achieved every milestone last year that he needs to hit this year. (The Patriots actually would get cap relief next year, if Brady fails to earn some or all the money.) So it’s a wash; the bonus drops the cap number by $5 million, and the incentives push it back up by $5 million.
For now, Brady’s cap number for 2019 has spiked to $27 million, thanks to the other $5 million from the signing bonus. So even if his pay currently isn’t in line with the top of the market, his cap number for 2019 definitely will be, and it could mean that he’ll be signing another new contract next year at this time, with the goal of dropping his 2019 number and nudging dollars into 2020, regardless of whether he’s still on the team or not.
Some will regard the $10 million lump sum as proof that the contractual adjustment isn’t as light as it seems to be. But Brady was going to make that $10 million between now and the end of the calendar year; he just gets it now, not in 17-week installments.
So the bonus doesn’t change the fact that the Patriots addressed a grossly below-market compensation package for Brady with a bump that he needs to earn with stellar play, or that if he does earn it, he’ll be paid not like Matt Ryan or Kirk Cousins (or Jimmy Garoppolo) but like Blake Bortles or Ryan Tannehill.