After months of negotiating and number-crunching, the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady have agreed to a six-year contract worth $60 million that makes the two-time Super Bowl Most Valuable Player one of the highest-paid players in the NFL.
While Brady's signing bonus of $14.5 million is significantly less than those received by quarterbacks Peyton Manning ($34.5 million) and Donovan McNabb ($20.5 million), the Patriots' star is slated to receive a $12 million roster bonus next March, and $40.5 million in salary and bonuses in the first three years of the deal.
Based on numbers from the NFL Players Association, Manning's 10-year, $98 million deal calls for less than $37 million in the first three years.
The $31.5 million Brady will earn the next two seasons dwarfs the $11.5 million he was scheduled to make in the final two years of a four-year, $29.6 million extension he signed in August 2002.
According to a source familiar with the language of the contract, which was signed Wednesday, the yearly salary starts at $1 million this season and rises to $6 million in 2007. The deal has salaries of $5 million in 2008 and '09, before leveling off at $3.5 million in 2010, with a $3 million roster bonus in each of its final three years.
Brady and his agent, Don Yee, could not be reached for comment, and the Patriots have not officially confirmed the deal, but Patriots vice charman Jonathan Kraft, at last night's Celtics game, said, "We are incredibly excited to have signed someone who has embodied our franchise. Tom is a great leader, on and off the field. We are excited he will be with us at least through 2010 -- or beyond."
Though it took some time to iron out the specifics of the deal, a source familiar with the negotiations said there was never any animosity between the parties. Apparently Brady's relationship with owner Robert Kraft helped moved the negotiations along.
Before the Super Bowl, Brady said he realized that to be a part of the Patriots, sacrifices must be made to fit into the "grand structure of what the team is trying to accomplish." His willingness to do that is evidenced by the way the contract is structured.
The split bonus ($14.5 million now, $12 million next year) is perhaps the key to the deal from the team's standpoint.
With the NFL and its players negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement, signing bonuses in contracts signed now may be amortized for salary cap purposes over only the next five years. So a $26.5 million signing bonus would count $5.3 million per season in cap money for each of those years.
When a new CBA is reached, the Patriots could (and almost assuredly will) revisit Brady's contract, turning the $12 million into a signing bonus on an extension next year and spreading its impact on the salary cap over the remainder of the new contract.
That means with an additional year on the deal, instead of the $5.3 million cap hit for each of the next five years, the bonus would cost the team $2.9 million against the cap this season, $4.9 million the next four seasons, and just $2 million in 2010 and '11.
"I think it's a good thing that it's out of the way," said wide receiver Deion Branch. "It tells all of us that he'll be our quarterback for a long time. Sounds like he got taken care of pretty well. It doesn't sound like he'll have to worry about his contract for the rest of his career."
Brady, who turns 28 in August, has started 71 consecutive games, including the playoffs, and has yet to lose a game in the postseason (9-0), tying Green Bay's Bart Starr for the most consecutive postseason victories.
Jackie MacMullan and Nick Cafardo of the Globe staff contributed to this report.