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Brady not talkative on contract

By Albert R. Breer
Globe Staff / June 5, 2010

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Tom Brady’s as deep into a contract and close to free agency as he’s been in a decade as a Patriot, and for that reason, his future in New England has become a front-burner subject this spring.

For everyone, that is, but him.

Speaking at his flag football game last night at Harvard Stadium, part of this weekend’s Audi Best Buddies Challenge, Brady addressed a Yahoo! Sports story by Michael Silver from this week that said there was a “growing sense of disconnect’’ between the player’s camp and the team in contract talks.

And his explanation of the situation didn’t go very far in terms of clarifying the perceived issue.

“I don’t really want to talk about it a whole lot, because there’s nothing anyone can solve, other than the team and myself,’’ Brady said. “There are a lot of guys in my situation. So really, I just want to focus on what’s coming up this week. And I’m just excited to be back on the field with the guys. Things happen, some are out of your control. You just gotta go with the flow.’’

Asked if he was disappointed a new deal hadn’t been struck, Brady struck a benevolent tone.

“Really, I haven’t been thinking about it a whole lot,’’ he said. “It’s just part of the process. I love being on the field with the guys, playing. And that’s really where my focus is.’’

Brady has signed three contracts since being drafted in the sixth round by the Patriots in 2000. There was his original contract, a three-year deal. After he won his first Super Bowl two years later, at the age of 23, the Patriots signed Brady to a four-year extension worth $29.6 million.

Three years after that, with two years left on that deal and following the Patriots’ third championship in four years, Brady was rewarded with a six-year, $60 million deal.

That one expires after this season. But speaking to the Globe last month, Patriots owner Robert Kraft was cautiously optimistic that a resolution would be reached, and confident that Brady would remain a Patriot well into the future as the quarterback opens his second decade with the team.

“We’re very lucky to have him as our quarterback and we want him to be our quarterback for a long time into the future,’’ Kraft said. “Everything he represents is pretty special. He’s a winner. We’re privileged to have him a part of the New England Patriots organization.’’

While certain recent regulations adjustments, such as the 30 percent rule (which prevents teams from increasing a player’s salary more than 30 percent from one year to the next), may not be major stumbling blocks to getting a deal done, the uncertain future of the league and its financial structure appears to be.

At the very least, the looming expiration of the collective bargaining agreement makes this negotiation more complicated than it would have been. Teams don’t know what the rules will be if and when the salary cap returns in 2011, and how big bonus money could be retroactively accounted for.

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning is in a similar situation to Brady, with his contract expiring after the 2010 season, but Indianapolis has spoken with more certainty on its franchise player than New England has. At the Super Bowl, Colts owner Jim Irsay said the team was fully expecting to make Manning the game’s highest-paid player.

That hasn’t happened yet, but when Manning does sign — it’s expected this summer, and any contract he gets should be in the $20 million-per-year range — the market could be set. Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees could also get a new deal, although New Orleans is less pressed to do so with two years remaining on the six-year deal he signed in 2006.

Either player signing could create a framework for a new Brady deal, although the structure might have to be different because of the 30 percent rule.

Eli Manning of the Giants, Philip Rivers of the Chargers, and Jay Cutler of the Bears all signed deals within the last year with average annual values of roughly $15 million a year, setting a standard for quarterbacks.

Brady has spent much of his offseason in California with his two young sons, but took part in this week’s organized team activities and figures to be a full participant through the rest of the club’s offseason program, which wraps up with a mandatory minicamp June 15-17.

He’s spending this weekend with the charity he’s been most involved with and now chairs, and will ride a bicycle in the Best Buddies Challenge today.

“It’s a really great organization, and they really understand what it is to give back,’’ Brady said. “I’m really honored to be a part of it, they work so hard over the course of the year together. Hopefully, [today] it doesn’t rain too hard.’’

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