The most significant piece of information regarding Patriots quarterback Tom Brady‘s new contract was completely omitted from the flurry of reports that emerged regarding the deal on Sunday.
Ian Rapoport of the NFL reports that the new Brady contract contains a clause that voids the agreement on the final day of the 2019 league year, and that prevents the Patriots from using the franchise tag or the transition tag on Brady in 2020. Thus, barring a new deal before the start of the 2020 league year in March, Brady will become a free agent.
That said, the Patriots and Brady could still choose to work out a new contract before Brady hits free agency. A source with knowledge of the contract tells PFT that the deal falls beyond the category of contracts that cannot be renegotiated for at least one full calendar year. Thus, a new contract can be executed before the current one expires.
Now that the truth has emerged, the quid pro quo for the contract is simple: Brady got an $8 million raise for 2019, the Patriots created $5.5 million in cap space for 2019, and Brady will escape potential application of the franchise tag or transition tag in 2020.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that the Patriots would have applied the franchise tag or the transition tag to Brady. When receiver Randy Moss became a free agent in 2008, after perhaps the greatest single season for any receiver in league history, the Patriots didn’t apply either tag before eventually re-signing him to a three-year, $27 million contract.
Regardless, to the extent that Sunday’s incomplete (erroneous) reports created the impression that the Patriots have dibs on Brady for 2020 (if willing to pay him $30 million next year), the true and accurate state of affairs is that the clock now ticks toward Brady hitting free agency for the first time in his career. Which means that every owner without a clear franchise quarterback and with the urgency to generate offseason excitement — and revenue — should consider making it known, discreetly, than an obscene amount of money awaits the greatest quarterback in league history.
Brady would sell tickets. Brady would sell luxury suites. Brady, who continues to move merchandise like no one else in the league, would sell tens of thousands of jerseys.
Of course, Brady would first have to want to change teams. If he does, he has a clear path to a new address. To become a free agent in March, he needs to do nothing at all.