Amid longstanding speculation that teams are lining up for the services of Tom Brady — the Tennessee Titans, Las Vegas Raiders and Chargers among them — there’s a very real possibility the six-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback stays in New England to finish his career with the Patriots.
That said, the clock is ticking on Robert Kraft & Co. to hammer out a deal with the 42-year-old Brady sooner rather than later, or let him walk out the door. There are substantial financial consequences riding on it.
New England gave Brady a $20.25-million signing bonus in August for technically a three-year deal. So that bonus counts against the salary cap in three equal portions of $6.75 million. That means there’s a $13.5-million cap hit left.
No matter what this upcoming season, his bonus is going to count $6.75 million against the cap. Brady’s contract voids the last day of the league year, which is March 18 at 1 p.m.
The Patriots can agree to a new deal with Brady at any time before then. But if that contract voids, the other $6.75 million that’s on the books for 2021 hits in 2020. So if the Patriots dilly-dally, suddenly Brady counts $13.5 million against the cap before New England has paid him a dime in future salary.
So that would make it a lot harder to bring him back. Because, say, a one-year, $20-million deal turns into a $33-million cap hit. That leaves less room to sign other players.
Theoretically, the Patriots can still bring him back after March 18, but that’s a bright line of demarcation. If they intend to bring him back, it makes the most sense for the Patriots not to linger.
Brady long has said he wants to play until he’s 45. It’s pretty clear that he wants a team to commit to him with a multiyear deal. Question is, after a down year, are the Patriots ready to step up?