New England’s offense has been in disarray and Tom Brady has been getting hit and sacked far more than usual, but the veteran is undeterred, according to several people who have been in contact with him. Brady’s health is good and his love of the game is strong, and he continues to believe he could play into his 40s.
Brady, who turned 37 in August, is having one of his worst seasons, due by and large to the absence of adequate protection and a shaky supporting cast, in the opinion of several scouts and executives who have assessed the Patriots’ play through four weeks, but is hopeful improvement is ahead. Brady still believes he has several quality seasons to come. Brady is currently signed through 2017, but that isn’t necessarily his final NFL contract, and with New England spiraling and the team notorious for moving on from even its best veteran players late in their careers, and with heir apparent Jimmy Garoppolo drafted in the second round in May, executives from other teams are interested to see how the team proceeds.
If Brady is on the Patriots roster for the final game of the season, as obviously expected, then the final three years of his deal become fully guaranteed, according to the language of the contract. Those totals are very manageable:
2015: $7 million salary with a $13 million cap figure
2016: $8 million with a $14 million cap figure
2017: $9million with a $15M cap figure
Those figures would make Brady an even more coveted commodity via trade, especially at a time with roughly a third of the league making or mulling a change at the quarterback position. Also, owner Bob Kraft, as per league rules for payments that are fully guaranteed for injury, skill and cap, must cut a $24 million check to the NFL office to be put in escrow when those guarantees are triggered. It’s a significant figure even for a billionaire.
There are no “no trade” provisions in the deal, though Brady would always have the ability to scuttle any deal by retiring and, in the possibility a trade was considered the other team may want to amend or bolster the contract as well.
At a time when many other teams have far less proven quarterbacks making more than double Brady’s remaining salaries, and if the Patriots do struggle to retain their stranglehold on the AFC East and need to consider rebuilding some, he would be a substantial trade chip, perhaps their only one. Even broaching the topic of Brady being gone sounds blasphemous to many at first blanch, certainly, but the reality is the Patriots have a long history of shunning sentimentality and making calculated decisions, and if their lack of a supporting cast continues to plague them, options for expediting a roster influx would be limited.
Brady has appeared visibly frustrated at many times this season on the sidelines and, having accepted another team-friendly deal, with the expectation that cap money and cash would be redistributed around the roster, the issues along the offensive line and at receiver and tight end have actually been magnified. Tight end Rob Gronkowski, who is playing at what some scouts estimate to be about 50 percent less than a year removed from his latest surgeries, has not been a consistent factor, Julian Edelman has been the only regular contributor and the running game is nonexistent. Aaron Hernandez has not been replaced and the team lacks outside threats and elite speed, which has allowed opposing coordinators to only have to defend them 25-30 yards deep and almost entirely between the hash marks.
A sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer and in the discussion for the greatest quarterback ever, Brady would surely fetch multiple high picks in return even at this stage should the Patriots ever consider that notion, and there would be a large number of teams with interest (recall how many pursued Peyton Manning even at a time when Manning’s future was in doubt given the serious health issues he was dealing with).
The Patriots have until any point in 2015 to pick up a $10 million option on Gronkowski that would trigger $27 million in salary from 2016-2019. It continues to seem unlikely they would do that given the tight end, even before this latest run of injuries, was averaging just over $4 million a year on this contract and more than doubling that at this stage seems like a stretch given his injury risks.