ALLEN PARK, Mich. — As details emerge regarding Tom Brady’s new contract, it’s becoming clear that all possibilities are on the table for the future Hall of Fame quarterback after the 2019 season.
For the first time in his career, Brady will be playing on an expiring contract.
“There’s a lot of guys who have one year left on their contracts,” Brady said following Monday’s joint practice with the Lions. “I’ve got one year to go and we’ll see what happens.”
Brady’s extension includes void years in 2020 and 2021, according to a source. If Brady is on the Patriots’ roster the fifth day after the Super Bowl, which he will be, the final two years will void and he’ll become an unrestricted free agent.
This structure of the contract allows the Patriots to give Brady an $8 million raise and, by spreading out the new money over the voided years, it also creates immediate cap space.
It’s a win for both sides in the short term. Brady gets a bump, and the Patriots gain an extra $5.5 million to make various moves. The Pats enter August with several question marks — specifically at left tackle and wide receiver. So if a veteran at either of those positions becomes available in a trade over the next month, the Patriots can at least enter the discussion. They can use the money for an early extension on an ascending young player. Or they can keep some cash in the bank just in case a certain tight end — who seems to be enjoying his post-football life — experiences a change of heart. Rob Gronkowski would be due approximately $530,000 per week if he decided to come out of retirement.
Bottom line: The team is better positioned to upgrade its roster. And as Brady chases a seventh Super Bowl, the priority is the present.
“I love playing quarterback here,” Brady said. “I love this team, this organization, Mr. (Robert) Kraft, Jonathan (Kraft), Coach (Bill) Belichick, all of the coaches, all of the players. The focus is this year and what we’ve got to do. That’s where I’m focused. That’s all that really matters in the end.”
The future, as Brady acknowledged, is totally up in the air.
“It’s really the reality for most guys in the NFL,” Brady said. “I don’t want to think I’m any different than anyone else. Football is a tough business. It’s a production business. I’m ready to go this year and that’s really what matters. That’s where my focus is. It’s a unique situation I’m in. I’m in my 20th year with the same team. I’m 42 years old, so pretty much uncharted territory I think for everybody. I’m going to go out there and do the best I can this year and see what happens.”
Over the past few years, several teams have written void years into the contracts of starting quarterbacks. Tyrod Taylor’s five-year contract with the Bills voided after two years. The Saints added a void year to Drew Brees’ contract to spread out his massive cap hit. It’s a viable short-term strategy.
And Brady wanted to keep the conversation on the short-term.
Asked if he would have preferred more security for the future, Brady said, “I’m really not worried about it. I’m secure for this year, I think. At least I get a few first team reps out there. I just go out there and try to do the best I can.”
At 42 years old and already a six-time Super Bowl champion, Brady, quite reasonably, may be viewing his career as year-to-year. He’ll play out this season and go from there. There’s a lot of work to be done before anyone — Brady or the Patriots — makes decisions on 2020.
Brady is used to turnover, but he’s dealing with radical change from a year ago. Julian Edelman and James White are the only known commodities in the passing game.
At Monday’s joint practice at the Lions, Brady was often rolling with a three-receiver set of Phillip Dorsett, Braxton Berrios, and undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers. The offense exhibited signs of progress, as Brady connected with Meyers on an out route, Berrios on another short route, and then Berrios again on a deep in-breaking route to lead off a two-minute period near the end of practice.
But the offense stalled in the red zone. Brady threw three consecutive incompletions from the 7-yard line, and the Pats were forced to settle for a field goal.
For now, Brady’s just worried about getting this new-look offense ready for Week 1. He’ll deal with 2020 when the time comes.
“ I’m really excited for the year,” Brady said. “This was good competition today. We needed it to see where we’re at. We’ll try to make quite a few corrections and go out there tomorrow and see if we can do better.”