Tom Brady might not have been as magnanimous as people think during his 20-year run with the New England Patriots.
The Athletic's Mike Sando examined how franchises have built their rosters around their starting quarterbacks over the last 25 years. He noted how one line of thinking is that Drew Brees could've made life easier for the New Orleans Saints by following Brady's contract approach.
Sando laid out how the premise may be flawed from the start, however:
"One GM suggested Brees could have helped New Orleans if he'd been amenable to taking deals similar to the ones Brady accepted. However, a team contract negotiator said the differences were mostly aesthetic, and that Brady didn't really take less money until the end, when he was looking to leave New England. The GM thought [Patrick] Mahomes and Buffalo's Josh Allen helped their teams by taking longer deals giving their teams greater flexibility, while other quarterbacks have put their teams in a relative bind by pushing for more money over a shorter run."
Until his second-to-last year in New England in 2018, Brady never had a salary-cap figure of $20 million or more. In the current market, it looks like the 15-time Pro Bowler was routinely a massive bargain for the Patriots.
But Sando mapped out how Brady's salary compared to the cap each year. He accounted for 15.6 percent of New England's payroll in 2006 and 15.7 percent in 2010. He hovered between 13 and 14 percent in 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2018.
Business Insider's Scott Davis and Cork Gaines estimated in 2020 that Brady might have left around $60 million on the table. That's a significant sum, but it isn't so substantial when you spread it over nearly 15 years—Davis and Gaines' projections began after the future Hall of Famer signed an extension in 2005.
Brady unquestionably could've commanded more money from the Patriots, and not doing so meant New England was better positioned to address other areas of the roster.
The extent of Brady's generosity might have been exaggerated, though.