When it comes to free agency in the NFL, the process is generally pretty standard for most teams: If a team is interested in a player, someone in the team's front office will contact the player's agent and things will move along from there. However, that's not the way things operate with the Patriots. In New England, everything goes through Bill Belichick, which means players and their agents will almost always be dealing directly with the Patriots coach during a negotiation.
If you're wondering what it's like to negotiate with Belichick, apparently, the six-time Super Bowl winner is kind of ruthless when it comes to making a deal. According to former Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson, who played under Belichick for five seasons, the Super Bowl-winning coach is usually trying to "nickel and dime" players during negotiations.
"Bill will nickel and dime," Johnson said recently, via NBC Boston. "There was a year that I had -- I played 15 percent of the plays the year before, and he came to ask me for a pay cut. He said, 'Well Ted, you only played 15 percent of the plays.' 'Yeah, Bill, did you know I broke my foot in Week 1 so I missed the next 10 games?' He doesn't care about that stuff. So it is hardball, he doesn't care, he will use the stats against you, and won't factor in all the things that went into those poor stats."
Belichick has also been known to use another unorthodox strategy: Instead of contacting the player's agent, he'll cut out the middleman and contact the player directly.
"When I first was being coached by Bill and had my first kind of issue with my contract, Bill reached out to me personally, which usually does not happen," Johnson said. "I was like, 'Whoa, OK, I have an agent.' He was like, 'Yeah I was going to call him.' He wanted to gauge my interest and see how I reacted by him calling me."
Part of the reason Belichick has been able to build a dynasty in New England is that he's usually able to convince players to sign for a discount. Many players will jump at an offer from the Patriots, even if the deal is under market value because they know it will give them their best chance at winning a Super Bowl. Basically, Belichick dangles the Super Bowl carrot before hitting most players with an underwhelming offer.
"He's not going to blow you away with an offer," Johnson said.
Former Patriots receiver Danny Amendola went through the negotiation process with Belichick after the 2017 season, and he eventually jumped ship to Miami after he realized Belichick wasn't going to up the Patriots' offer.
"I came in," Amendola said. "I understand Bill [Belichick] runs a tight ship... When free agency broke, I came to the realization that he wasn't going to really come close to any of the other offers I had. I had to make a decision for my family and go down to Miami and continue my career there."
After making the low-ball offer, Belichick then plays the waiting game.
"He's going to make you sweat it out," Johnson said. "And make you think, 'Do I really want to leave what I'm comfortable with, or stay here and take less than what other people would offer?'"
That final sentence from Johnson is what Tom Brady has been doing for the past decade. The Patriots quarterback has been taking less so that the team could build around him, but after years of doing that, it appears that Brady finally wants to be paid market value. Although most teams would probably pay him whatever he wants -- most as a thank you for 20 seasons and six Super Bowl wins -- that's not The Patriot Way. According to Johnson, Belichick is an "emotionless machine" who takes sentiment out of negotiations.
"That may be the case here with Tom [Brady] where pride can get in the way," Johnson said. "And so with Bill, he's an emotionless machine, man. That was the kind of feeling I got from him that he takes emotion out of it and that's why he's as good as he is."
This could end up being bad news for Brady. If Belichick doesn't want to pay a quarterback more than $30 million, then the Patriots aren't going to pay a quarterback more than $30 million. The only way Brady is going to get the money he wants is if he's willing to leave New England, which is probably a big reason why the quarterback has finally decided it's time to get a taste of free agency after 20 seasons in Foxborough.
If you want to stay up-to-date on every rumor and piece of news surrounding Brady this offseason, make sure to click here to check out our free agency hub for the Patriots quarterback.