I find it interesting that New England has chosen to go down a road that runs the risk of irritating the most important player in franchise history. By not yet entering into serious contract negotiations with Tom Brady -- a situation that Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports went into great detail here -- the Patriots could be doing more harm than good.
Brady's recent non-denial comments only seemed to confirm that all is not well as he enters the last year of his current contract. "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. "Things happen, some are out of your control. You just gotta go with the flow.''
So what could potentially be going on here and how did it get to this point? Let's explore.
• What exactly is the Patriots strategy? This is what I have a tough time figuring out. Possible explanations include the 30 percent rule that limits salary increases in future contracts during the uncapped year and that coach Bill Belichick might not be happy with how much time Brady has been spending on the West Coast for family reasons. There's also the uncertain labor agreement and environment going forward.
Maybe the Patriots are trying to send Brady a message and attempting to ensure his focus and determination to succeed are at an all-time high this season, even if it ruffles his feathers a bit in the meantime. Perhaps they believe there will still be a franchise tag in place if there is football in 2011 and have decided they are fine with slapping Brady with that tag. Maybe they are still holding out hope that Brady will give them a significant hometown discount, like he did on the contract extension he signed in 2005.
• Does New England really have a choice? This is what I keep going back to, and the answer is no. New England doesn't have any other viable options at quarterback, so why alienate a guy, even a little bit, who is still one of the three best players at the most important position in the game. I just don't understand the logic in that.
Yes, he got hurt in 2008 and Matt Cassel played pretty well. And his 2009 season wasn't as preposterously fantastic as 2007. But he's still Tom Brady and they'll be lucky if his eventual replacement gives them three-quarters of the production Brady has during his 10-year career.
What, are they going to turn to his backup Brian Hoyer? Or pick up a quarterback in free agency next year? Even the draft, which could be a possibility at some point, is a crapshoot and would force the Patriots to make a bold move up in round one to take a quarterback considered to have elite potential. The only thing that makes sense is to give Brady a new contract. With that as the logical conclusion ...
• Doesn't it make more sense to give him a contract now? Colts owner Jim Irsay has already gone on record as saying he is willing to give Peyton Manning a contract that makes him the highest paid player in league history. Not surprising, as Manning has certainly earned it.
If I am the Patriots, I would be doing my darndest to get Brady signed to a deal before Manning inks his mega-package. Why allow Brady's representation to work off Manning's contract? Wouldn't they rather make Brady the highest paid player in league history right now by working off the pact Eli Manning recently signed with the New York Giants?
Eli, Phillip Rivers and Jay Cutler all signed deals that average out in the neighborhood of $15 million per season. Peyton is thought to want something in the neighborhood of $20 million. Seems to me like the Pats should be working to get Brady's deal done just north of the first number and as far below the second as possible. And now, before Manning's blockbuster gets done.
• Is this the latest example that Belichick needs help? You have to wonder if this is the type of situation in which longtime Pats personnel man and current Kansas City Chief general manager Scott Pioli would have been the sounding board that Belichick needs. The Patriots have no defensive coordinator. Or offensive coordinator. Or really a general manager or top executive with the clout that Pioli had. Rumor has it that Belichick also cooks all of the lunches for the players in the offseason and mows the lawn on the practice fields.
You get my point. Belichick has a lot on his plate and doesn't appear to have anyone there to check him on why he is doing some of the things he does. If he did, maybe that person would ask him why he is ticking off the guy that made Belichick what he is in the first place.