Is the Brady contract snag a big deal?

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Proof that “Anything Tom Brady Is Huge News” … Even with Wes Welker providing a borderline miracle on the field yesterday, and the Celtics in the NBA Finals, as I was driving home from Foxborough yesterday, I heard the Brady contract story by our buddy Mike Silver dominating the airwaves on Felger & Mazz.

Maybe it wasn’t that way for the whole show. But it was while I was tuned in.

So is this that big a deal? Well, anytime a franchise quarterback is in a contract negotiate, all news is big news, and this is easily the closest Brady has gotten to the end of a contract (his last two deals were signed with two years remaining on the old ones) in his decade in Foxborough.

Which means, yes, it is pretty significant. There are a few things we gotta keep in mind here. Let’s bulletpoint them, and review them … right … now:

1) The Patriots retain control: While messing with a star player of Brady’s caliber is never good business, the team does have the option of using the franchise tag to retain him in 2011, if things get that far. What’s happening now may not qualify as “messing with” the quarterback. But that using the tag often leads to acrimony.

The bottom line is the Patriots can use the “exclusive” tag on Brady (which could be set at close $20 million) to lock him up for 2011 and extend their exclusive negotiating window. But chances are, Brady’s camp will want to get something done sooner, since a new deal could include more than $50 million guaranteed, and avoid the risk of playing the 2010 season without long-term security.


2) Recent history says this isn’t unusual: The key for the Brady camp is likely to get something done before the first snap of the 2011 season, and that’s where Eli Manning and Philip Rivers — entering the final years of their rookie deals in 2009 — stood at this time last year.

Manning’s deal, worth $106.9 million over seven years ($97.5 million over six in new money), was inked in the first days of Giants training camp. Rivers’ deal, worth $98.25 million over seven years ($92 million over six in new money), came roughly three weeks later. These two negotiations were front-burner issues for the Giants and Chargers last summer, and got done. So there’s a lot of time left for the sides to talk, and while Brady’s never gotten this close to free agency, it’s not like it’s unheard of for a franchise quarterback to make it that far.

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3) Others will affect the negotiations: Eli’s deal last year set the $15 million-a-year market for Rivers, and Drew Brees or Peyton Manning could ultimately do the same for Brady. Colts owner Jim Irsay is on record saying that he’s prepared to make the elder Manning brother the highest paid player in league history. Meanwhile, Brees could probably be elected mayor of New Orleans right now, and could be re-upped with two years left on his contract as a result.

Veteran Indianapolis Star reporter Mike Chappell speculates that Peyton’s new deal could be worth $100 million over five years, running through 2015 (if it’s an extension, and not a new deal completely) and the quarterback’s 39th birthday. The Patriots don’t have as much freedom in the deal’s structure as the Colts do, because of the 30-percent rule (Manning has high salary numbers for 2009 and 2010, while Brady’s are relatively low), but as we went over earlier this month, that shouldn’t be a major problem.

What you need to know: The market for Brady and Brees and Peyton is likely going to be at least $20 million per year.

… Anyway, so this negotiation should be an interesting one. When’s the time to worry? Well, if you get through training camp, and there’s still no deal, that should certainly raise some eyebrows, particularly if Manning’s done when most expect (sometime in June or July).

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But, as we noted, even then, the Patriots have some modicum of control.

The doomsday scenario here is that a new CBA is struck in March, and the franchise tag becomes a thing of the past, and Brady doesn’t have a new deal at that point.

That, of course, still seems highly unlikely now. What you seem to have at this point is two sides that see things differently. And plenty of time to bridge the gap.

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