Tom Brady long has said he intends to play until he’s 40 years old.
And after he signed an extension Monday with the Patriots that goes through the 2017 season — the year he will celebrate his 40th birthday — chances are he will not just be on the field for that milestone,
he will do it in a Patriots uniform.
Brady’s three-year, $27 million extension gives the Patriots a significant amount of salary cap relief for the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
That likely opens the door for the Patriots to keep receiver Wes Welker, cornerback Aqib Talib, and potentially make some waves when free agency officially begins March 12.
Brady wants to win and he’s doing what he can to make sure the Patriots get the best pieces to bring another Super Bowl title to Foxborough.
On Monday night, his Facebook page posted two words: “Just Win.’’
According to a league source, Brady receives a $3 million signing bonus immediately; his base salaries for the 2015, ’16, and ’17 seasons will be $7 million, $8 million, and $9 million, respectively.
Even though Brady will be 36 in August, that’s a relative bargain for a player of his stature.
In essence, Brady now has a five-year, $60 million deal, all of it guaranteed. It could be renegotiated if the salary cap goes up, or if the Patriots get more long-term cap space.
The quarterback was due to count $43.6 million against the salary cap for the next two seasons. In the restructured deal, he will count $28.6 million against the cap, a savings of $15 million for the Patriots.
The NFL salary cap is expected to remain at $121 million for 2013 and 2014, the same amount as in 2012.
It made sense for the Patriots to extend Brady to get some cap relief, but it got done quicker than expected.
The Patriots also could extend Vince Wilfork to gain more room under the cap.
Brady might have been given assurances that his good friend Welker will remain in New England, and the receiver’s contract could be done before the start of free agency.
The Patriots met with Talib’s agent at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. They were pleased with the cornerback’s performance in his brief time after he arrived via trade with Tampa Bay. If he is re-signed, it might not be before March 12.
There are a few receivers expected to be on the market, such as the Steelers’ Mike Wallace, the Chiefs’ Dwayne Bowe, and the Packers’ Greg Jennings. Any of the three could help give the Patriots the outside-the-numbers receiver they lack, a player to take defensive attention away from the middle of the field, where Welker, Aaron Hernandez, and Rob Gronkowski do most of their work.
But those receivers come with their share of concerns, first and foremost whether they quickly can pick up the New England offense and develop a rapport with Brady.
The Patriots also could pursue veteran defensive lineman Dwight Freeney to play a situational pass-rush role, San Francisco safety Dashon Goldson, whom they were interested in coming off the lockout in 2011, or perhaps Baltimore’s Ed Reed.
Locking up Brady also could mean the Patriots will trade Ryan Mallett: the 2011 third-round draft pick has received few regular-season snaps, but with a dearth of quarterback prospects in this year’s draft, there is probably a market for the former Arkansas product.
One potential landing spot might be Cleveland, where Bill Belichick friend and former co-worker Mike Lombardi is now the general manager. Lombardi was high on Mallett when he was drafted, and is not enamored with the Browns’ current starter, Brandon Weeden, a first-round pick in 2012. The question is how much the Patriots want in return for Mallett.
Brady’s extension was met with fanfare from some teammates, with Devin McCourty tweeting, “Hearing this news about Tom is a reminder of why he is the definition of a team player.’’
Linebacker Dane Fletcher wrote simply, “Tom Brady #enoughsaid’’.
Patriots players might not be as happy when it is time for their own contracts to be negotiated. The Patriots can note that if the franchise quarterback is willing to take a little less, you should, too.