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Tom Brady is entering the final year of his contract, in which he is due to make $6.5 million ($3.5 million in salary, and the rest as a roster bonus). He earned quite a bit in the early part of his contract, so he is no doubt looking for a bigger payday. Rumors have circulated that Brady is waiting until Peyton Manning (also entering the last year of his contract) signs an extension so that he can be paid comparatively. Manning is expected to receive $20 million a year or so, which would require the Patriots to dig deep into their coffers to retain Brady. The question now is whether or not they should, especially with so many other players to worry about.
Remember, Brady has a surgically repaired knee. He also has all sorts of finger and shoulder problems from last year; he’s a banged up guy. He doesn’t quite move like he used to, it’s easier to strip the ball from him, and he outright refuses to run with the ball (preferring to just throw the ball into extremely heavy coverage instead). I can’t really speak much to the millions of dollars Brady is worth, since that’s millions more than anyone needs to live comfortably, but the injuries and playing style make Brady’s practical value much lower than in the past. It’s probably somewhere around his current salary, without the entire roster bonus built in.
And did I mention he’ll be 33? It’s not that bad, but it’s getting up there, especially with the injuries thrown in there. You might be tempted to say that Brady should still get a raise, and perhaps he should, but it shouldn’t be anything substantial just because Peyton Manning is getting paid way too much for anyone (even him) and will get a raise. If Peyton Manning jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?
This is the practical value we’re discussing, not the nominal value. Of course, teams don’t really care much about the practical value. They always pay the nominal value and with a player like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, they’re too tempted to buy the name instead of the player, without checking to see if the player will come with the name.
That $20 million would be a huge price tag for Brady. While trying to retain other players, sign key free agents to bolster their defense and receiver corps, and trying to keep a balanced team, the Pats might spend too much on retaining everyone to retain Brady. And no matter how good Brady is, he’s just one man. There’s absolutely no excuse to sign just one man (even Brady) and let the rest of the team dissolve away. So if nobody is willing to pay Brady that much, and the Pats don’t want him to simply walk out the door to free agency, a sign-and-trade is a great option. Plenty of teams would love to have Brady’s services.
Currently, the Pats have Brian Hoyer as the main backup. Remember how well he performed against the Giants last preseason? He helped reverse a 17 point deficit and stormed ahead in the 4th quarter. They have several more young guys that could be developed along with Hoyer just in case, and with Belichick’s overwhelming desire to hoard draft picks, there’s always plenty of room to collect more quarterbacks with them, and stockpile said picks as part of a sign-and-trade.
Just as a few examples of what could be, the Panthers have a lot of need for a more stable quarterback situation. Their old backup Matt Moore has four years of experience, but that’s about all they have. The rest of the three quarterbacks on their roster have one year of professional experience, and that doesn’t even count because Hunter Cantwell, the quarterback in question, hasn’t even played one second in a real game. If unsigned draft picks Jimmy Clausen and Tony Pike don’t work out as well as Carolina would’ve wanted, they might be that much more willing to take on Brady.
Then we have Cleveland. They clearly don’t have as much need, but who they do have didn’t have the best of 2009s. Cleveland acquired Jake Delhomme from Carolina to be their starter, but he only went 4-7 in the 11 games he started, threw only eight touchdowns to 18 interceptions, and finished with a 59.4 quarterback rating. Seneca Wallace, acquired from Seattle to be backup, played meaningful time in only three games, and those three were losses. Colt McCoy, acquired in the draft, has already been benched for the season because Mike Holmgren feels like it, refusing to even give McCoy a shot. There’s also Brett Ratliff, but nobody’s heard of him. There’s plenty that could go wrong in Cleveland and lead them to try again.
Then there’s Buffalo, the only team to not get better in the suddenly competitive AFC East. Now I know the uneasiness that can result from trading within the division (see Philadelphia fans), but New England gave Buffalo Drew Bledsoe before, and that didn’t really do anything. Besides, maybe the Patriots see Brady as too injured to be productive enough, especially on a sub-par team like Buffalo (which resorted in 2009 to splitting duties between Trent Edwards and Ryan Fitzpatrick). Maybe they see Brady as not as focused on football anymore, having spent much of his off-season with his family like never before. It’s entirely possible that a little bit of inside knowledge could make it okay to trade Brady to Buffalo whereas Buffalo wouldn’t have as much knowledge of the information as New England. Maybe the Philadelphia/Washington/Donovan McNabb thing was the same way.
But this is all just a good idea of what should be done. In reality, we all know that Brady, deserving or not, will remain in New England and will be given an incredibly bloated contract which will probably surpass Peyton Manning’s. As I mentioned earlier, teams focus on the name more often than the player, and this sometimes leads them to make poor decisions.
Remember, Tom Brady was picked in the sixth round of the 2000 draft. Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft therefore have an uncanny ability to snatch a needle out of a haystack like no others. But while they let Richard Seymour go in time and got what is certain to be a very high first round 2011 picks, the whole situation with Brady leads me to wonder whether or not they can tell when to throw that needle back into the haystack.