After drifting for more than 24 hours in a sea of uncertainty about whether or not the Patriots are willing to go "all-in" during the twilight of his career, Tom Brady has found land.
Namely, Revis Island. It's now located between Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard.
It's been moved from Tampa Bay for one-year at a cost of only $12 million.
Such a deal.
Everything is awesome, indeed.
"Always root for the local sports team ... Gooooo sports team."
It's hardly Aqib Talib money. Signing Darrelle Revis is great first free-agency step and a signal that perhaps the Patriots, namely Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft, have some to the sobering realization that Brady is mortal and won't be in New England indefinitely.
The Patriots took a detour in the Patriot Way Wednesday when they landed the former Tampa Bay Bucs defensive back. Money aside, for a moment, Revis is an authentic star and clearly the best in the league [if not AFC now] at the game's most important defensive position. Even while he was injured last season, his effort was not unnoticed in Tampa Bay. He never bailed even though the Bucs floundered. The NFL is passing league, so you need top-line pass rushers and pass defenders.
Revis is a walk-in leader in the Patriots' locker room and gives their defense a star presence, NFL character and solidifies the deep left side in the wake of Talib's departure to Denver. Revis did fake a pulled hammy against the Patriots after getting toasted by Randy Moss. But hey, we all fake it once in a while. He has started 16 games in five of his seven NFL seasons [he played in 13 games in 2010] but missed all but two games in 2012 due to injury.
The fact that he was being courted by his former team the Jets makes this all the more delicious.
The Kraft Family didn't break any banks to sign Revis. The $12 million, one-year deal is another Patriot steal. The Patriots were $4.1 million under the cap in 2013 and have a $2 million carryover for this season. Robert Kraft is worth more than $2.9 billion. He bought the Patriots in 1995 for $172 million, and the team is now worth $1.8 billion, according to Forbes. In the most recent figures available, the Patriots had an operating income [profit before taxes and interest] of $139.2 million in 2012. NFL teams are immensely profitable and the NFL itself is a tax exempt organization.
The money has always been there. What is refreshing about this move is that Kraft and Friends recognize that indeed Brady's biological clock is humming along at a quickening pace. Brady is 37 this August. He is signed through 2017, or age 40. For the Patriots not to go "all-out" on all fronts during these final few precious seasons of Brady's career would be an NFL sin.
Revis, from all reports, had the Patriots atop his wish list. Talib, on Wednesday, and Welker, throughout last season, trashed much about the way the Patriots did business. It's reassuring that there are first-rate, big-name stars who are still willing to take a pay cut to play for Belichick and in Foxborough. Revis made $16 million this past season. The franchise tag for Talib at the same position was about $10 million.
It's going to take a while to absorb the fact that the Patriots are paying $12 million for cornerback, even to one as spectacular as Revis. The Patriots pride themselves on being insulated from public opinion, unlike the Red Sox, who sign guys like Carl Crawford for $142 million to liven things up on NESN.
[Thanks again, Magic.]
There's no doubt, however, the masses were not happy with the State of the Patriot Union Wednesday morning.
Maybe this was part of one of Belichick's brilliant, diabolical plans all along: Let Talib go, mind-screw the Broncos into signing him for $57 million over six years [with $26.6 million guaranteed] and then lure Revis to New England and have him happily take a 25 percent pay cut on a one-year deal. If that is the case, Kraft should send Belichick over to Russia to settle this whole Crimea thing with Putin and grab that Super Bowl ring on the way out the door. It was likely both a combination of good fortune and some gutsy moves on the Patriots' part. But all that counts is that Revis will be playing for the Patriots and they still have plenty of "cap" money to load up on free-agent defensive ends and wide receivers.
Pro-Football Reference.Com has Revis most comparable to Hall of Fame CB Lem Barney and WR Frank Gifford [who played defensive back as well] on its "similarity score" scale. Meanwhile, the same site has Mark Sanchez scored equally with Kathie Lee Gifford.
The Patriots have not gotten complete absolution here. Brady's favorite target from 2007-12 went to the Broncos in 2013. Brady's 2013 No. 1 option in the slot is a free agent, testing his market value. Too often, the Patriots are shopping at Wal-Mart and so many of their skilled and veteran players price themselves at Bloomingdale's. The rest of the league is shopping there, as well. I was reminded on Twitter Wednesday that the Patriots restructured Randy Moss' deal in 2007 for $3 million after they got him in trade from Oakland. The Patriots "reportedly" offered Edelman $4 million per year [over three years] in 2014. Seems that they might still be living in the 00's when it comes to player value, at least for receivers.
The Patriot Way has produced three Super Bowl championships, five AFC titles and eight trips to the AFC title game, including the past three, since 2001. The Kraft Family also mercifully demolished Sullivan/Foxboro/Schaefer Stadium and replaced it with one of the best all-around facilities in the NFL.
The Patriot Way extends to those mysterious injury reports [see Tom Brady/Questionable/Shoulder and Talib's "hip" injury], extensive use of video tape at inopportune times and general use of the Dark Arts and espionage by Belichick.
There is always a downside to any big-money deal, even for one season. The doomsayers are wailing about "cap jail." The threat of "cap jail" is about as menacing as Tony Eason against Richard Dent in Super Bowl XX.
Patriots' fans over 35 survived Rod Rust and remember it all too well. They can handle a year in "cap jail" following Brady's departure. The Patriots are going to rebuild and re-tool when Brady departs. That is a cold, hard Coors Light fact. It's true whether they sign Revis for another three years at $12 million per, or cut him on Friday. The same holds for any other big-name free-agent they might bring into shore up their pass rush or provide their QB with a reliable veteran target. Most of the team's first 40 years were spent re-building and re-tooling. Why should 2018 or 2019 be any different?
Whatever funny money exists or doesn't exist in a future salary cap means little in comparison to the historic opportunity and obligation that confronts the Patriots. Brady's Biological Clock must conquer all when it comes to decisions on player acquisitions. That holds until it is silenced by his retirement, or Gisele hiding his Uggs on the way to the airport in Rio.
The Patriot Way has served New England football fans well. But even the most perfect plan and scheme has its exceptions. Revis is the ultimate exception to Kraft's lust for accountancy and Belichick's "player value" spread sheet. Revis should help the historic not-so-pretty free-agent balance ledger that has punctuated Belichick's reign. He is far more Rodney Harrison than Joey Galloway.
There's a basic sense of fairness concerning Brady that triggered such ire in Patriots fans these past couple of days. It also surfaced this time last NFL year when Welker landed a mile above sea level in the 303. Hidden contractual details aside, Brady has twice taken less money up front and restructured his contract for the Patriots. Even at the $17 million Brady will make in 2014, he's a great bargain. At $7 million in 2015, $8 million in 2016 and $9 million in 2017, he will be an absolute steal, even at age 40.
It's hard to tell what Kraft might consider a greater accomplishment: winning three Super Bowl rings, dating Ricki Noel Lander or getting Brady to sign a deal that will eventually pay him $7 million a year.
Perspective? Jake Peavy will make $14.5 million whether he throws one pitch for the Red Sox or ends up cutting off all his fingers while getting ready to go fishing.
What has Brady gotten for his willingness to provide salary cap room? For one, a crapload of criticism from far too many fans and media types because he hasn't won that elusive fourth Super Bowl.
Thanks to several factors, including the Patriot Way [Welker], Father Time [Brandon Lloyd, Deion Branch], injury [Rob Gronkowski] and the Commonwealth's penal code [Aaron Hernandez], Brady entered 2013 with his top five targets from 2012 not on the field in Week 1. With Edelman's status in free agency limbo, Brady may find himself having to develop a new BFFWR again this season. Amendola's soft, tepid performance during his first year in New England leaves no one confident in what he can offer. Why the Patriots even allowed the chance of this happening again is astounding, and even somewhat offensive. Whatever monetary differences that exist between them and Edelman should be quickly bridged. Stability trumps height in this case. Brady and the Patriots have room for one more Hobbit. He doesn't need another season with a group of receivers on a learning curve until Thanksgiving.
There's even more on the NFL free-agent menu to test and see just how "all in" the Patriots really are these days - wide receiver Steve Smith and defensive end Julius Peppers and Jared Allen - and they still have to finalize their plans with Vince Wilfork.
Wilfork has been marginalized across much of the digital and broadcast media spectrum of late. It's as if those who often apologize and excuse the Patriots for all their mistakes are already altering perception and softening the blow for his departure. NFL teams still run the ball and Wilfork, assuming he's healthy, stops the run as well as anyone.
Meanwhile, it's almost all good. Revis will be playing for the Patriots next season, and for a mere $12 million.
And the Patriots have shown the Denver Broncos and the rest of the league that they too are willing to spend more than ever before, and do it wisely, to make a run at a championship.
That's all anyone can ask for, especially in March.
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