PHOTO: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, left, celebrates with Patriots owner Bob Kraft after the Patriots beat the Carolina Panthers 32-29 in Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston, Sunday, Feb. 1, 2004. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Deal Sets The Right Tone
By NFL Scout
It's easy to preach team first in the midst of three Super Bowl championships in four seasons, but much tougher to do when the business side of the NFL rears its head. But Patriots quarterback and team leader Tom Brady maintained that selfless attitude in what could have been an ugly, drawn out contract renegotiation when he accepted a deal that won't cripple the Pats salary cap while still making him one of the game's highest paid players for the remainder of the decade.
"I think we're all happy he'll be a New England Patriot for, I hope, all of his career," Patriots owner Robert Kraft said. "We tried to do it in a way that was respectful of the team and allowed us to compete long term and also treat him fairly. Our objective is to win football games (and) to win off the field. I think this allowed us to do that."
It did, but make no mistake, Brady didn't give any major hometown discount in agreeing to a six-year extension worth about $60 million even while accepting far less guaranteed money than some of his quarterback counterparts -- namely Peyton Manning and Michael Vick, who have no Super Bowl rings among them compared with Brady's three, but received guaranteed bonuses well in excess of $30 million.
Brady took home a mere $14.5 million up front and will be paid a $12 million option bonus in 2006. Along with his base salary, Brady will earn more than $30 million in his first two seasons and about $40 million in his first three, which is reportedly more than Manning's contract called for in years one through three despite the exorbitant $34 million signing bonus the Colts paid their quarterback.
But after 2006 when Brady's cap number climbs to $14.5 million in conjunction with a projected cap spike created by the new NFL broadcast contracts, his cap numbers actually settle down and become manageable all the way through 2010. It's quite likely that Brady will see all $60 million of the contract without any major restructure later on in the deal.
"Since he's been starting at quarterback, we've won three of the last four Super Bowls, so I don't think we need Albert Einstein to figure out it's a good move to have him signed up long term," Kraft said. "We have a very special situation here that's going on, to win three of the last four Super Bowls - and we have the quality of people we have on this team and to have the organization and stability that we've been able to have - he's one of the important parts of that."
Brady, 27, will be 33 when the contract expires and will be able to negotiate a reasonable final contract at that point rather than force the team to keep re-working his deal through necessary credit card spending that make his cap numbers excessive until the team is left with a major dead money hit upon Brady's retirement.
The total value of the deal is worth significantly less than those signed by Manning (seven years, $98 million) and Vick (10 years, $130 million), but getting so much of the money early in the contract seemed to be the major sticking point for Brady's camp. The Patriots acquiesced to that while feeling the deal would not hamper their ability to maintain a championship-caliber competitiveness at any point during the term of the pact.
It was critical for New England, as Kraft said, that Brady's contract set the right tone for the organization and it did just that. His deal might serve as the barometer for negotiations with star defensive lineman Richard Seymour, whose rookie contract expires after the 2006 season. With Brady's deal done two years before his other was set to expire, expect the Pats to turn their attention to Seymour in what could be a tougher negotiation.
Seymour signed a six-year deal after being drafted sixth overall in 2001 and has since been to three Pro Bowls and been named All Pro twice while also helping the Patriots to three world championships. If he looks for back pay in his negotiation, the Pats might have trouble retaining his services. But even negotiating on projected production, Seymour will be paid among the highest at his position. With the team signing Brady already, Seymour won't likely want to wait two more seasons to get his.
-- Colts QB Peyton Manning's sense of humor can be seen in the credit card commercial in which he chants, "Chop that meat," at a butcher. But Manning had the Patriots and Tom Brady on his mind during a recent pre-graduation speech at Emory University. In an Atlanta-Journal Constitution story detailing Manning's words of wisdom, the two-time MVP quarterback discussed a dream in which he went to heaven and was shown his home, a modest house with a faded Colts flag hanging outside. Behind that was a mansion decorated in Patriots merchandise. So Manning asked God why Brady, a three-time Super Bowl winner, was given a mansion. Then Manning said, "(God) said, 'Peyton, that's not Tom Brady's house. That's my house.'"
-- CB Duane Starks, 30, received his liberal arts degree from the University of Miami on May 13. The Patriots cornerback was the 10th overall pick in the 1998 draft out of Miami by the Baltimore Ravens before signing with the Arizona Cardinals as a free agent. The Patriots traded a third round pick to Arizona for Starks during the offseason.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I kept asking him about discipline, motivation, about team building, about leadership. All of the things that right now are more important than anything in college athletics. If you don't believe it, go to the Internet and read about all the problems going on with teams in our (Southeastern) conference with behavior of players. Thank God for the New England Patriots. They just reconfirm everything we stand for at the University of Florida. It's accountability. It's taking care of one another. It's working harder than your opponent. There's no luck involved." - Florida football coach Urban Meyer to the Tallahassee Democrat following Patriots head coach Bill Belichick's visit to campus to talk offensive schemes.
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