Brady OKs 4-year deal with Pats; focus shifts to Colts QB Manning

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NEW ORLEANS -- One superstar quarterback contract down. Two more to go.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has agreed to a four-year contract extension with the Patriots that, coupled with the current final year of his existing contract, will tie him to the Patriots through the end of the 2014 season, New England owner Robert Kraft told me Thursday night. Kraft would not discuss specific terms, but ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Thursday night the deal's worth $72 million over four years, with $48.5 million guaranteed. That would put the average at $18 million, eclipsing Eli Manning's $16 million salary and making Brady the highest per-year player in NFL history.

Kraft's reward to Brady has been well-earned. One of four three-time Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks in NFL history, Brady signed for approximately $10 million per year in 2005, an under-market value that allowed the Patriots to use as much money as possible on free agents. Brady has been great for the Patriots, and now he's getting the financial reward he deserves.

Now, it'll be up to the Indianapolis Colts to make the next move. Peyton Manning had been the highest-paid quarterback in the league -- he'll earn $15.7 million in 2010, the last year of his deal -- and it's widely expected Manning's deal will trump Brady's. When the Patriots file this contract to the league office on Friday, this will be the first time in their illustrious careers that Brady will be better-compensated than Manning, on average. If that seems unfair, Brady, in essence, has been playing from behind his entire career. He was the 199th player draft in 2000; Manning was the first player picked in 1998. Directly behind Manning: Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who is in the fifth year of a six-year, $60 million contract he signed in 2006. It's likely Saints GM Mickey Loomis and owner Tom Benson will let Brees at least finish the current year before opening talks with the defending Super Bowl MVP, who leads the NFL in most quarterbacking categories over the last two seasons.

Brady was involved in a car accident Thursday morning in Boston's Back Bay section. A driver with a long history of motor-vehicle violations ran a red light and Brady's black Audi slammed into it. Brady was unhurt, and he told players and club officials Friday he was fine. The Patriots open their season Sunday at home against Cincinnati.