Are the Patriots really going to be the Patriots with Tom Brady? Are they going to do the same thing they've done with other, lesser, and more unruly employees to the single most valuable asset the team ever has had? Even if Brady shows up at training camp, and the smart money says that he will, that question's going to linger for the forseeable future. That the Patriots have had themselves an unconscionable bargain in Brady over the duration of his current contract is unworthy of serious debate. ($3.5 million in salary this year? Brady likely could have done better playing for USC.) Now, being the Patriots, it looks very likely that they're going to kick the can down the road just because they can. Just Because They Can has been the team's m.o. in contract talks for the past decade. They have the hammer and the whole roster looks like a nail.
Leave aside the fact that times ain't what they used to be in Foxboro. Leave aside the fact that Indianapolis is in the same boat with Peyton Manning, who will make more than a few million dollars more than Brady this season. And leave aside the fact that there is no NFL quarterback worthy of the title on this roster outside of Brady. (Well, don't leave that completely aside.) This cannot be business as usual. Not with Brady, without whom this team is at least 10 years away from another Super Bowl championship.
That said, one excuse that cannot be tolerated is that the Patriots are "waiting to see" what the next collective-bargaining agreement will look like. First of all, the CBA is not going to be delivered to labor and management by a delegation of the Keebler elves. Management knows full well what it wants out of a new CBA, and even assuming that management compromises somewhat on its fundamental demands, the Krafts have a very good idea what the general outline of the new agreement is going to be. In addition, profferring this as an excuse not to get Brady's deal done now is a tacit admission that keeping faith with your fellow owners is more important than doing right by your franchise, its fans, and its most important player. Some nails are more important than others. Some nails hold up the whole damn building.