So Tom Brady got a contract extension. Big deal.
Well, yeah — for the three-time Super Bowl winner and for the Patriots.
There's nothing unusual about one of the game's best quarterbacks and leaders being coveted by his team. Or being rewarded.
What's rare is how well the three-year extension works for both Brady and for New England.
First, the two-time NFL Most Valuable Player, despite some perceptions, did not really take a pay cut with this new deal. It might have sounded that way with salaries of $7 million in 2015, $8 million the next year and $9 million in 2017, far below the going rate for superstar QBs.
Instead, Brady gets a $30 million signing bonus, payable over the next three years, and $57 million overall in a contract that will run through the 2017 season, when he will be 40 years old. Other than backups who are little more than insurance policies, how many quarterbacks even make it on to a roster at 40?
Essentially, he gets $33 million guaranteed for the next two seasons, and he's surely worth it considering that Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and, most likely, Joe Flacco, will earn more in 2013 and '14. Add up each of their Super Bowl rings and it adds up to the number Brady owns.
The extension should have little effect on other quarterback deals, particularly Flacco. The Super Bowl MVP is 28, just entering his prime and in line for a huge contract no matter where he winds up. (Bet on Flacco staying in Baltimore).
Of course, Brady has shown no signs of slowing down — look at his stats for 2012, including 34 TD passes and eight interceptions, and a 12-4 record. He's still at the peak of his skills, and he wants to be surrounded by players at a similar stage of their careers.
To get that, he understood he needed to rework his contract to free up enough salary cap space for New England to sign more difference makers.
In doing so, Brady not only virtually assured he will finish his career as a Patriot, but at a price that works for him and for owner Robert Kraft. Did he take a mammoth pay cut down the road to ensure that? No, because Brady actually will get more guaranteed money; the final three seasons are guaranteed against injury; and they could be guaranteed in total depending on Brady meeting certain requirements, including being on the active roster for the final game of 2014.
But he also will have those three years of salary far below scale for the position, for cap purposes. And that is where the Patriots get their payoff.
New England has more needs than other contenders, and those holes must be filled now for the Patriots to win their first championship since the 2004 season. Yes, it has been that long.
Brady recognizes that, and by helping free up $15 million in space over the next two years, the Patriots can spend more in free agency.
Coach Bill Belichick tends to find role players such as Danny Woodhead, Julian Edelman and Steve Gregory, and he gets solid production from them. Brady makes just about everyone on offense better, too.
But the Patriots don't have too many true studs, particularly on defense. Opponents in big games — the Ravens, Giants, 49ers come to mind — have found favorable matchups that led to major victories.
Brady sees that. By reworking his contract, he basically has told the Patriots to spend the newfound money in ways that will turn those matchups back in New England's favor.
Unquestionably, Brady wants his favorite target, slot receiver Wes Welker, to be re-signed. He'd love for Belichick to find a consistent deep threat at wideout, too.
Top cornerback Aqib Talib, acquired in a trade with Tampa Bay during last season, is a free agent. He comes with a checkered past, but behaved with the Patriots in 2012 and played well.
Tackle Sebastian Vollmer, a main reason Brady was sacked just 27 times, also is a free agent.
And Brady would love to see some playmakers let go by other teams land in Foxborough. Such names as former Colts pass rusher Dwight Freeney, Steelers speedy receiver Mike Wallace and Ravens' star safety Ed Reed have been mentioned.
Now, Brady has given the Patriots more money to make improvements, while not really emptying his own pockets.