Heading into Week 1, there's been plenty of speculation regarding New England Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady and his contract status.
The franchise passer's entering his final year under his old contract, which pays him just six million dollars. That's a pittance compared to players like Peyton Manning, Matt Ryan and rookie Sam Bradford.
There's no doubt the Pats want to keep Brady beyond this season, and by all accounts he wants to stay with the team as well. The problem is structuring a contract that will satisfy both sides. For the past few weeks, the two sides have been working to find a happy medium, resulting in the most recent speculation that a deal is close.
However, there are other sources that say a deal is "not imminent." Whether an agreement is or isn't on the horizon, the Patriots can't afford to risk losing one of the best players at the most important position in football.
In today's NFL, it's impossible to have success as a team without a good quarterback.
With the most recent rule changes, it's not even enough just to have a veteran who takes care of the football. If the passing attack isn't a major part of a team's offense, it's not going to be a Super Bowl contender. So why would New England, a perennial playoff team over the past decade, want to even consider the thought of moving away from the player most responsible for that success?
The team has a notorious reputation for being tight-fisted when it comes to player negotiations, an opinion that's been confirmed by recent negotiations with Vince Wilfork and Logan Mankins. While the team probably feels it's merely following a consistent attitude that they've had all along, their position couldn't more wrong.
They can't treat Brady like every other player because quite simply, he's more important than every other player.
No matter how much he wants to be considered just part of the team, the reality is that he's above it. Like it or not, the current rules system in the league makes it such that the quarterback is the most important position. Consequently, a player like Brady can't be negotiated with like he's just any random piece of the puzzle.
Brady is the keystone, the straw that stirs the drink and any other metaphor you'd like to use regarding his position with the team. The fact that it has taken this long for a new contract to potentially be close is ridiculous. New England needs to stop playing games and pony up the necessary amount of years and dollars.
Even if Brady's making top dollar in four years, it's doubtful his skills will diminish that much. The new rules not only make the quarterback a special position, but they make it one that has better longevity, which is partly why Brett Favre still has a job.
Earlier this decade the Patriots built a dynasty through clever maneuvering of the salary cap limitations. They recognized an area that they could take advantage and did just that. Now, the rest of the league has caught up and made new rules and restrictions both on the field and off. New England, too, must stay with the curve if not ahead of it, if they hope to maintain the successful standard they have established.
That starts with the one player most responsible for their exploits past, present and (hopefully) future. Robert Kraft needs to pay Brady whatever is necessary to keep him in New England.