Much has been made over the past week or so about the contract extension signed by New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, with some lauding it as a team-first move by a star player while others claimed that all it really did was put more guaranteed money in Brady's pocket.
In this week's "Monday Morning Quarterback" column by Sports Illustrated's Peter King, team owner Robert Kraft set out to clear the air about Brady's deal, stating that it was nothing more than an effort to free up some cap space in the short term while insuring that Brady finishes his career right where it started.
Apparently that second part was a legitimate concern for Kraft and the Patriots.
Kraft said he had:
been thinking about this for three or four years. I was probably wearing my fan hat as much as anything else. I just didn't want to ever see this become like Joe Montana leaving San Francisco, Emmitt Smith leaving Dallas, Brett Favre leaving Green Bay, Peyton Manning leaving Indianapolis. If Tom Brady played out this current contract and left us, there was no doubt in my mind that someone out there would pay him top dollar, and they should, for his ability, his leadership and his unselfishness.
Granted, not many people outside the New England organization may have given the possibility of Tom Brady leaving New England much thought, but Kraft has a valid point.
Kraft then explained that as Brady's contract was currently structured he felt it hurt the team's ability to remain competitive moving forward, so he attempted to both remedy that in the present and address it in the future, all in one fell swoop.
I was just trying to stay ahead of the curve. If we were going to have to pay him elite-quarterback money and have elite-quarterback cap numbers, I just didn't think we would be able to build a team. We don't want to have a team where we're paying 18 to 20 percent to a player on the cap. I wanted to do something elegant that would work for everybody. I had been talking to him off and on for maybe 18 months, about how I wanted him to finish his career here, and about how we both have to be smart about it. I just really want him to end his career a Patriot.
Kraft's solution to this problem was to offset the fact that the contract was "smaller" than what would usually be expected for a top-flight quarterback by increasing the amount of money that's guaranteed.
The entire $30 million that Brady was set to make over the final two years of his "old" deal is now fully guaranteed, with an extra $3 million thrown in to sweeten the pot. Brady's salaries in 2015, 2016 and 2017 are now guaranteed against injury.
Some have bemoaned these guarantees are a huge risk by the Patriots given that Brady is 35 years old, but as King points out if you look at the deal more closely those risks don't loom quite as large.
I don't think anyone expects, barring some sort of catastrophe, that Tom Brady isn't going to play, and play at a high level, the next two seasons.
At that point each season's money becomes guaranteed annually. If Brady is healthy in 2015, that year's salary becomes guaranteed. The same holds true for the next two years after that.
So, in reality, the only significant risk the Patriots are taking is that Brady's level of play declines sharply at some point over the duration of the final three years of the deal.
As Kraft told King, that's a risk the Patriots were willing to take.
I presented an idea to him that I thought could work for both sides. He takes care of his body in terms of exercise and working out and his food. Tom's intake of food is, really, so healthy. He has a whole style of living that is so important to him ... We're taking a chance making this commitment, and he's taking one, in terms of his ability to maximize pay. I just thought if winning is the most important thing to him, and I think it is, and it certainly is to our family, this gives us the best chance to win. Hopefully we have an elite quarterback that, even if his skills decline even a little bit, he'll still be better than 90 percent of the quarterbacks in the league. And his legacy -- I already believe he's the greatest of all time -- if we win one or two more, he can solidify that.
There's where the motivation for Brady giving the Patriots a "discount" likely lies. His "legacy."
Tom Brady isn't exactly hurting for rent money, and it's not like he'll be making peanuts under this deal. Never mind the endorsement money that will keep flowing after his career is over. Or the TV networks that will fight over handing him a fat broadcasting deal (if that's what he chooses to do after playing).
Joe Theismann made quite a bit of money calling football games. Troy Aikman still is. And neither one of them is even all that good at it.
Networks will freak over the possibility of getting "The Golden Boy" in the booth.
That doesn't even take into account the fact that Brady's wife makes even more cabbage than he does.
Money is not a problem at the Casa de Brady.
However, after losing in his last two trips to the Super Bowl, that "legacy" has taken a bit of a hit, and don't think that sort of thing doesn't weigh on a man who got where he is by being ultra-competitive.
Win another Super Bowl and Brady joins Montana and Bradshaw as the only quarterbacks with four rings. Win two and he stands alone.
Now, taking less money certainly doesn't guarantee Super Bowl wins, but Brady knows fully well that the less money they have tied up in him, the more money they can spend on strengthening the team around him.
There are even those that say this contract (or at least the last three years) are smoke and mirrors, that the deal could once again be re-done when 2015 rolls around.
Granted, it's possible, but as King reports given the Patriots' recent history it's unlikely.
The Patriots have sometimes played the shell game with the contracts of star players, moving money around for cap purposes. However, they very rarely add extra money to those deals.
When Brady signed his last extension in 2010, his 2010 salary remained unchanged from the contract he signed back in 2005.
The same 2005 contact that wasn't changed even after Brady threw 50 touchdown passes in 2007.
At the end of the day, this contract at its core, is about a veteran quarterback and a team owner who have a long and successful relationship coming up with something both parties can live with, just as Kraft told King.
In life, the best deals are the deals that are good for both sides. You have to understand what is most important for both parties. You do the deals that work well both ways. I'm not sure we will ever see anyone like him again. Being the 199th pick in the draft, I think he's always worked harder and fought harder, and I think he's able to think differently because nothing has ever been handed to him. I wanted to get this done fast so we could create room for free agency, room on the cap over the next two years when the cap was too tight. If this thing took three or four months, we would have lost that window.
Both Tom Brady and Robert Kraft took risks with the deal, but apparently both men felt that the potential rewards for both themselves and the Patriots outweighed those risks.
And that's just smart business.