Lazar: Taking Tom Brady’s Contract Year-By-Year in Patriots’ Best Interest

Tom Brady enters his 20th NFL training camp without a new contract.

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FOXBOROUGH — the Patriots will begin training camp for the 2019 season, Tom Brady’s 20th, with the greatest quarterback of all-time in a contract year.

The soon to be 42-year-old is six weeks away from making a regular-season start on an expiring deal for the first time in his career.

As of right now, the two sides are talking, and although things could move quickly, are still far enough apart that a deal isn’t done yet.

On the one hand, it seems ridiculous that the Patriots, who have said numerous times that Brady will retire a Patriot, would play hardball with the franchises most important player.

But given the rare territory that we are in with Brady still beating the crap out of Father Time, it seems that Bill Belichick might have some reservations about a large multi-year commitment.

After all, we do need to acknowledge Brady’s football mortality; it simply can’t last forever, and it’s okay to admit that while also reiterating that Brady is still at the top of his game.

With Brady nearing the end, is the idea of a year-to-year approach using the franchise tag that crazy for the Patriots?

Based on his 2019 salary, the franchise tag for Brady would cost the Patriots roughly $32.4 million in 2020, which is 16 percent of the estimated $200 million salary cap.

Brady, of course, needs a backup, bringing the cost of quarterbacks on the roster to roughly 17 percent of the cap if we assume it’ll be someone on a rookie deal like Jarrett Stidham.

For comparison, the Patriots currently have 15.6 percent of their 2019 salary cap allocated to quarterbacks; it’s not that big of an increase (source: Spotrac).

Furthermore, the Patriots have an estimated $50 million in space for the 2020 season. A number that’s admittedly higher because it doesn’t currently account for Brady, a free agent at the end of the season.

If the Patriots tag Brady, they’ll have roughly $20 million in space to work with next offseason, meaning they’d still have some flexibility.

Looking ahead, other key free agents for New England after the season include Devin McCourty, Joe Thuney, Kyle Van Noy and cornerback Jonathan Jones.

Thuney, an ascending player looking to cash in on his second contract, will see a significant pay increase, and McCourty could command a notable price tag on a short-term deal. But that list pales in comparison to this past offseason when their starting left tackle and top pass rusher walked in free agency for mega deals.

The Patriots are a cut-throat organization when it comes to contract negotiations. They don’t dish out favors based on past performance, and they’re always looking for the best deal.

Even though you’d like to think that doesn’t extend to Brady, having him play out his current deal and falling back on the franchise tag keeps Brady in New England while avoiding long-term risk.

Brady wants an extension, and Pats nation wants him taken care of, but he might need to settle for $32.4 million.