IN AN AIRPLANE OVER WARRENTON, Mo.— What would you pay for one year of Tom Brady at the tail end of his career? What would that period of free agency madness even look like?
There was a time during Brady’s initial battles with the aging process and football immortality that we could envision him perhaps defecting from the Patriots. (His father’s famous quote from 2015 about Brady’s career inevitably not ending well because time is undefeated certainly conjures images of him flailing about in a Panthers uniform, scrambling for his life in an unfamiliar offense.) But the unspoken coziness of his current situation suggests otherwise. Brady will retire a Patriot, the greatest football player of all time. A high-end health food store bearing his name will open at Patriot Place, ushering in a new wave of fans rattling on kombucha just before kickoff. I was in Foxborough for training camp last week, the day before his 42nd birthday and he was loudly serenaded by a packed group of Patriots fans sitting in the stands. Who could ever leave that behind?
But…an interesting note from NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport on Monday at least makes us wonder. Per Rapoport, Brady’s contract extension “includes two years that automatically void on the final day of the 2019 league year (March 17, 2000).”
Rapoport added: “Someone can call Tom Brady at 4:01 at the start of the league year in 2020 and try to sign Tom Brady.”
While he added the necessary caveats, it didn’t stop me from texting a pair of NFL contract advisors and a former GM to see what one season of Brady at age 43 would be worth. (My headphones wouldn’t work on this flight, so I couldn’t watch Chef for the 30th time on Delta. Call it work-related boredom.)
The first answer? $35 million, fully guaranteed. The second? $45 million, assuming the team is rife with talented players and is quite literally one quarterback away from contending for the Super Bowl (think, the pre-Nick Foles Jaguars). The former GM then seconded the $35 million estimate.
In looking at the current NFL landscape, there could almost certainly be a bidding war for Brady, which is why the inflated price tag makes some sense. The quarterback landscape feels secure now, with almost every club enjoying some modicum of (relative) stability from a recent draftee or entrenched veteran. But is it a false, sort of pre-housing-bubble sense of security? Think about situations in Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Los Angeles (Rams), Chicago, Miami, Cincinnati and Oakland. There are franchises nearing a decision point one way or another, about to commit large sums of money to quarterbacks, in a skyrocketing market, with veteran-laden rosters. Do you think the possibility would at least cross their mind? There is also defensive game theory seeping its way into the NFL that will inevitably slow down the rise of these young quarterbacks. Nothing slows progress like a schematic counterrevolution.
While Brady has never been one to squeeze the Patriots financially (he’s making sub-Andrew Luck money this year, for goodness sake), just picture a certain confluence of events leading to a mad recruiting dash like the football world has never seen.
Of course, we’ve reached peak madness here. A hypothetical of a hypothetical, and we’re only one preseason game into the 2019 slate. Let’s see how Thursday goes first before we get totally nuts, right?
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NOW ON THE MMQB: The life of Don Banks, a long-time Sports Illustrated columnist, a giant of the football reporting world and, above all, a genuinely warm and welcoming soul. If you read nothing else today, please work your way through this wonderfully written look back at who Banks was. We could all learn a little something about being a good citizen of Earth.
WHAT YOU MAY HAVE MISSED: How Matt Stafford managed this nightmare of an offseason…. Drew Brees is still looking to get better, even at 40….What Andrew Luck’s time away from football taught him about life, and longevity.
1. Case Keenum being No. 2 on Washington’s depth chart was, apparently, news to Case Keenum.
2. Speaking of Brady….is he MOVING TO NEW JERSEY!?
3. Jadeveon Clowney will end his milquetoast, barb-free holdout in typical holdout-ending fashion.
4. The….Philadelphia Eagles?....have the best receiving corps in the NFL?
5. As politicking ensues, a work stoppage plan begins to circulate amid the latest wave of CBA information.
You haven’t experienced the extent of modern technology until, at 30,000 feet in the air, you watch a man TKO Mike Tyson in Punch Out.
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