Tom Brady looking to cash in on free agent contract

For the first time in his illustrious career, Tom Brady will be a free agent looking for a new contract and, quite possibly, a new team.

If the New England Patriots cannot sign quarterback Tom Brady to a contract extension by 4:00 P.M. (EST) on March 17th, 2020, he’ll become a free agent for the first time in his 20 year career. If this were to occur, the four-time Super Bowl MVP could then sign with any team willing to break the bank for the 42-year-old signal-caller. 

Ironically, Brady will likely be overpaid to end his career, a stark contrast to the way he has managed contracts to this point. In two decades, Tom Brady has garnered $235,166,804 in total cash value, according to Spotrac. While most of us see a quarter of a billion dollars as adequate compensation, compared to the rest of the league, Tom Brady has been remarkably underpaid throughout his career.

For comparison purposes, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Bress has earned $9.54 million more in career wages than Brady and in one less season. In his 19 year career, Brees averaged $12.88 million per season. Furthermore, the Carolina Panthers paid Cam Newton, a nine-year veteran, an average of $13.49 million per season. Brady, on the other hand, has averaged a mere $11.76 million per season over an unprecedentedly successful 20-year career. 

In 2019 alone, Tom Brady was just the 10th highest-paid quarterback according to his total cash contract value. His $23 million salary could arguably be $10 million below his estimated market value, and in 2020, Brady seems dead set on recouping lost wages over his career. Or at least that’s what we were told initially.

Business Insider recently calculated, to the best of their ability, the amount of money Brady sacrificed in his time in New England. According to their calculations, in an attempt to keep the team talented, Brady may have given up around $60 million throughout his career. 

Either way, Brady will command a nice chunk of change whether he remains in New England or moves on to another franchise. The price tag will assuredly compensate him for who he is, alone, even if his most recent tape was less than stellar.

In what may end up his final game as a New England Patriot, Brady completed 20 of 37 passes for 209 yards and zero touchdowns. His last throw in the Wild Card matchup against the Tennessee Titans was a pick-six, adding insult to injury as the Patriots failed to reach the Divisional Round for the first time in ten seasons. Clearly, Brady isn’t the same guy he once was.

Just two years removed from being named the league’s MVP, Brady has seemingly lost it. As the above video illustrates, Brady doesn’t have the same zip or accuracy to his passes as years past. However, as NFL Network’s Michael Giardi alluded to on February 2nd, Brady’s also been lacking the supporting cast he’s so accustomed to having around him. 

Throughout 2019, Brady was attempting to gel with newly acquired receivers Mohamed Sanu and rookies N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers. Cohesion requires time. However, more than 20 weeks into the season, and there continued to be a disconnect between the young, developing receivers, and their 20-year veteran quarterback. 

It’s easy to see why Brady could become a free agent in search of a new contract. It’s becoming more and more evident that his surrounding talent is of much greater concern to him than dollar amounts. Maybe it took losing his former teammate, a future Hall of Famer, for it to become evident.

Following a 2018 Super Bowl victory, Brady’s most talented pass catcher, Rob Gronkowski, elected to retire. Even having started in a mere 11 games that season, Gronkowski produced 682 yards, which were more than 2019’s Sanu, Harry, and Meyers combined (671).

In 2017, the year Brady won NFL MVP, Gronkowski hauled in 69 passes himself. Again, that number was higher than Sanu, Harry, and Meyers’ combined reception total (64) in 2019. Gronkowski also reached the 1,000 yard mark for the fourth time in his career, adding eight touchdowns that year.

That’s not to say all of Brady’s favorite targets were gone this past year. Julian Edelman, a Super Bowl MVP the season prior, was still in New England and remained Brady’s security blanket throughout the season. Edelman enjoyed, arguably, his best season from a statistical standpoint hauling in 100 of Brady’s passes for a career-best 1,117 yards receiving. But it wasn’t enough to counterbalance for the offense’s lackluster star power and loss of Gronkowski. 

Between Gronkowski, Danny Amendola, and speedster Brandin Cooks, Brady had weapons all over the field during his 2017 MVP campaign. Those guys allowed the 40-year-old quarterback to take more risks and, in turn, hit on more plays down the field. Here’s a look at a playoff game, again, hosting the Titans. Only this time, Brady brought weapons.

The 2019 New England Patriots needed receivers Phillip Dorsett, Edelman, Harry, Meyers, and Sanu to gain 2,185 yards through the air. On the other hand, the 2017 Patriots produced 2,180 receiving yards with just Cooks, Amendola and Chris Hogan. Add in a 1,000-yard tight end, and it’s easy to see why the 2017 Patriots were so successful despite Brady turning 41 that year.

Although taking shots downfield didn’t always hit, the Patriots offense forced defensive penalties and opened up their staple crossers underneath all season long. No matter the quarterback, there’s unquestionably added value in having talented skill players around them.

Pro Football Network’s Offensive Share Metric (OSM) furthers this point. In 2019, Tom Brady was ranked 29th among all qualifying signal-callers in production responsibility. In other words, Pro Football Network grades quarterbacks and other offensive skill players on only what they can control on a given play. This metric, in regards to passers, values air yards, aggressiveness, and expected completion percentages.

The lower the grade, the more a passer is more dependant on his teammates for production and vice versa. So, if you felt Brady threw most of his passes within ten yards of the line of scrimmage, which allowed his teammates to gain yards after the catch, you were correct.

In the 2019 Wild Card matchup with Tennessee, Brady attempted 25 of 37 (67.6%) passes no more than ten yards down the field. Even more unbelievable is of those 25 attempts, 17 (68%) were less than five yards beyond or behind the line of scrimmage.

tom brady contract

Does this explain Brady’s recent ineffectiveness? Let’s use the same logic but, instead, apply it to his most recent highly successful season: 2017. Again, Brady was the league’s MVP in 2017. That year, Brady concluded the season with a quarterback rating above 100.0 for the sixth time in his career. Below is a side-by-side comparison of 2017 and 2019 regarding passer rating.

tom brady contract

Yes, Brady wasn’t as effective in 2019 compared to that of his third MVP season. However, the dropoff isn’t all that significant. Looking back at 2018’s Divisional Round game, Brady displayed a very similar style of play to the most recent Wild Card matchup.

In that game, Brady attempted 53 passes, completing 66% of them for over 300 yards and three scores. With that said, a whopping 38 attempts (71.7%) were made ten yards down the field or less with 23 (60.5%) of those coming within five yards of the line of scrimmage. Those percentages are nearly identical to what we saw from Brady a month ago.

tom brady contract

According to the NFL, Brady was terrific in 2017. Yet, in 2019, he’s never received so much criticism. I believe there are only minor differences between the two.

The numbers prove this. And the film, while it presents evidence of an aging passer, regularly reveals a system quarterback who, with a talented supporting cast, does well. Without that surrounding talent, Brady, in his forties, is no more than a game manager reliant on the system’s success. 

His 2019 OSM grade of 19.69, while ranked at the bottom of the league, isn’t necessarily indicative of his ability, but rather evidence of a player who’s becoming a product of the system in which he’s played in his entire career. Brady has always gotten the ball out quick to his running backs, speedy possession receivers, and on perfectly timed back-shoulder throws to the sideline. 

Brady can still be advantageous to a franchise at this stage of his career. While media pundits debate just how much he’s worth, financially, understand that Brady will not put himself into a similar situation as he was in during the 2019 season. He isn’t a quarterback to drop back and pick you apart. At least not anymore. 

Does that mean he’s out of New England? I think not. But it’s apparent that if the Patriots can not improve their quarterback’s supporting cast, Brady will gladly seek a new contract as a free agent elsewhere. 

And finally, if a team offers $30 million or more to Brady, would that be overpaying? Well, we are talking about a six-time world champion, three-time NFL MVP, and four-time Super Bowl MVP, here.

Let’s agree that Brady knows more about himself than anyone else. Knowing this, he never seemed to have an issue with being underpaid. Brady understood his value in New England wasn’t as imperative as making sure there were talented players around him.

In essence, Brady has been telling us all along that he’s a talented, smart, and competitive quarterback who, with a perfectly designed system and gifted teammates, can succeed. But don’t expect him to do anything like the latest Super Bowl MVP, Patrick Mahomes. 

Brady would be foolish to leave New England. But another year with that offensive roster and he risks a second putrid year of production. And while his abilities are fleeting, Brady’s intangibles alone carry value. Remember Peyton Manning’s last season with the Denver Broncos?

So, yes, pay Brady whatever you can afford to pay him. Of course, after you’ve locked in a run game, a matchup nightmare tight end, and a couple of game-changing receivers. That ought to mask his inabilities. And no one has done that more adequately than head coach Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.

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