The best justification for selfishness is selflessness.
From time to time, a quarterback who maxes out his leverage and in turn his contract attributes the hard bargain he drove to the fact that other quarterbacks will eventually be trying to get paid, too. On Wednesday, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott cited that mindset in getting the best deal he could from the Cowboys.
“I think any player that’s up to negotiation, they have an obligation to support and represent the rest of the NFL and where this game is going,” Prescott said at the press conference announcing his deal. “This contracts shows where this game is going financially, not just in the quarterback position but in all the positions. So obviously years later when I’m back at it, it will be in different circumstances. But I think I had a responsibility and an obligation to the other quarterbacks and to the other men and even the guys on my team to get this done.”
The most obvious contrast to this mindset, of course, comes from Tom Brady. He routinely has taken less than what he could get. His refusal to set the bar for other quarterbacks has made it harder for other quarterbacks to maximize their own earnings.
Brady’s willingness to take less also has been used against teammates who sought something closer to market value. If, after all, Brady is taking one for the team, why shouldn’t everyone else?
This dynamic makes Brady’s current talks with the Buccaneers even more interesting. He’s clearly the biggest draw on the roster, selling tickets and jerseys and all sorts of other stuff. But the Bucs are trying to keep the Super Bowl-winning band together.
So what happens with his $25 million cash and cap charge in 2021? Will he simply move money around to create cap space, or will he actually reduce his pay?
Dan Patrick raised an interesting question on Wednesday. What if Brady simply agrees to drop his pay to the league minimum of $1.075 million? That would give the Bucs $23.925 million in immediate cap space, nearly offsetting the difference between what the cap is and what it would have been if it had gone up by $10 million. Brady surely doesn’t need the money, and he’d surely give up the bulk of his salary if he knew with a reasonable degree of certainty that an eighth Super Bowl would be the reward.
Whatever Brady does, chances are he won’t say to the Bucs, “If Dak Prescott is worth $40 million per year, I’m worth that much and maybe more.” If Brady believed he had an obligation to other quarterbacks, he would.