You will not find any reasonable person that will argue with the fact that two of the all-time best quarterbacks in NFL history are Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. And this is coming from a Steelers fan.
When they both retire, their names will be included with Joe Montana, John Elway, Dan Marino, and Terry Bradshaw as the best ever. (I told you I was a Steelers fan!)
Colts ownership has declared that Manning is going to receive a contract this offseason that will average over $20 million per year, with a $50 million signing bonus.
At this point in his career, Manning has set two contract records for the NFL. The first was his rookie contract, which paid him $48 million over six years. That was the largest rookie contract ever.
His next contract, signed at the conclusion of his rookie deal, was for seven years and $99 million. Also the largest contract ever at that point.
I wrote an article about Manning's financial windfall that you can check out here.
But what about Tom Brady?
Ask anyone that is not a member of the Indianapolis Colts fan base, and most would say that Brady is every bit as good, if not better, than Manning.
Brady did not take the same route to "superstardom" as Manning. Brady entered the NFL as a sixth-round pick. His rookie contract was for just over league minimum. In his rookie season, he threw three passes, completing one.
After taking over the starting role in his second season, Brady went on to win the Super Bowl, earning game MVP honors.
In his second contract, Brady gave the Patriots an amazing discount, at six years and $60 million, $12 million more than Manning's rookie contract, and Brady had won three Super Bowls. Brady even re-worked his deal so the Patriots could bring in receiver Randy Moss.
Brady's contract is set to expire after the 2010 season. That leads to the question—how much money will Brady make?
Manning and Drew Brees, the starters in the Super Bowl, are both going to be cashing in after the Super Bowl. They will probably become the two highest-paid players in the NFL.
With massive contracts given to the class of '04—Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger have all received contracts in the $100 million range—Manning and Brees will be over and above those in the next couple of months.
Twenty years from now, maybe one of those players will even be in the discussion with Brady as best in history, but that's a big "maybe."
According to Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald, Patriots owner Robert Kraft does not even want to discuss it.
“I’m not going there,” Kraft said. “There’s a time and place for that.”
The question now becomes "What is the Patriots' plan for beyond 2010?"
The Patriots have shown that players that are not the best, even though they once were, are subject to be gone if the right scenario comes along.
Richard Seymour and Mike Vrabel have been traded away for draft picks. Teddy Bruschi and Rodney Harrison have retired. The Patriots are not the same dynasty team that dominated the early part of the 2000s.
Could the Patriots already be thinking about dealing Brady? Could they use the bulk of draft picks they have saved up to either trade up to get Jimmy Clausen or Sam Bradford?
Could they use one of their second-round picks on either Colt McCoy or Tim Tebow?
One way or another, a decision is going to have to be made in the next year, and possibly next three months. If the Patriots do trade up for one of the blue-chip prospects in the draft, then we will know that Brady will not be in New England for long.
And it will be a sad day in New England if Brady has to clear out his locker before he decided to call it an end to his career.