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According to Peter King of SI.com and reported by WEEI, Tom Brady signed a three-year contact extension with the team on Monday for $27 million dollars, including a $3 million dollar signing bonus. The deal keeps Tom Brady in a Patriots uniform until he is forty-years-old in 2017. This news is great for all Patriots fans, as it means their franchise quarterback will most likely remain a Patriot for life. The underlying theme here is that Brady took a contract extension for half his market value, leaving the team open to make some moves in an offseason where it looks like the salary cap may have an impact for the first time in about a decade. Below, we will review some of the different options for the team now that they have freed up $15 million in cap space over the next two seasons.
According to Ian Rapoport, Wes Welker could reach a deal with the Patriots, prior to the start of free agency, at the reported price of five years, $8 million per year. This would keep Welker in a Patriots uniform until 2017; curiously this is the same year that Tom Brady’s new extension would run out. Also, with Brady saving the team $8 million in cap space every year for the life of that deal, the numbers seem to match up quite well, and it will be interesting to see what the Patriots do on the Welker front. Tom Brady previously restructured his deal to assist the team with cap issues, and they let all of his favorite receivers go. I’m sure he learned from that experience last time, and may have left an ultimatum on the board to get the job done with Welker.
QB Ryan Mallett is now an afterthought in the Patriots system. By the time Brady’s deal is done, Mallett will be seven years into his career. This draft season, there may not be a first round talent QB in the draft, which makes Mallett a very attractive trade chip to recoup some lost draft stock to acquire players. Teams that may be interested in the strong-armed QB are: Arizona, New York Jets, Cleveland, Kansas City, and Jacksonville. It remains to be seen what the Patriots could get for Mallett, as they are requesting a second round pick for a third round QB developed for two years. If the team could package Mallett and another piece for something valuable for the team, it would behoove them to do so.
Both Aqib Talib and Sebastian Vollmer are unrestricted free agents. Prior to the contract restructure, questions remained about whether the Patriots would have the space to re-sign all three players that were scheduled to hit free agency. Now that they have some extra space, they could bring back Talib and Vollmer, as well as attempt to make another signing on the defensive side of the ball.
Note: Personally, I would not pay Vollmer top tier OT money. He is constantly hurt, even having another surgery this offseason. The team has been very successful at rotating talent throughout the line and can continue to do so at a cheaper price than it may take to bring Vollmer back. If he comes back on the cheap, sign him up.
Much of the news I have seen points to the Patriots being interested in free agent S Ed Reed from Baltimore. He has a previous relationship with Bill Belichick and would be a valuable asset as a defensive signal caller for a young secondary that seems to have suffered from lack of experience in the backfield.
DE Dwight Freeney was also released by the Indianapolis Colts, and for the right price, could provide an excellent pass rushing presence to a Patriots front seven that still struggled with that after Chandler Jones slowed down in the second half of last year.
Plenty of options now open up for the Patriots, and it will be fascinating to see how they approach this offseason, one in which they have significantly less draft capital than they have in recent seasons (1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 2 7th rounders)