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Krafting the Brady deal

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff  September 10, 2010 11:51 AM

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Success always starts at the top. Sports is no different.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft said at the start of training camp a deal for quarterback Tom Brady would get done one way or another. Kraft put his money where his mouth was, signing Brady to a four-year, $72 million extension that keeps him in Foxborough through the 2014 season.

That's good news for us in the media biz. Another half-decade of breathless Brady coverage, featuring everything from his tonsorial selection to his vehicular hiccups, is guaranteed like $48.5 million of Tom Terrific's new pact.

Best mock TV news headline I saw yesterday for Brady's car accident was the Brady Crunch (credit @jimmyfromhull). Bet Channel 7 is wishing they came up with that one while gassing up the helicopter.

It's nice to have a little good news to report around here when it comes to the 2010 Patriots, who have been all Belichickesque doom and gloom so far, and there is no better news than The Franchise being in the fold for five more seasons.

Kudos to the Krafts, owner Robert and team president Jonathan, for tossing the uncertain labor situation aside and doing what was right for their team and their fans by making Brady the game's highest paid player, if only until Peyton Manning tells the Colts to "cut that check."

That's what this came down to in a lot of ways, deciding whether to do what was best for their brethren in NFL ownership and the crusade for player cost-cutting or do what was best for their franchise, their player, their fans. They chose their franchise and their fans (how about that Bruins?) and they chose to pay Brady what he deserved pre-lockout instead of trying to prove a point.

For months we heard a Brady deal was complicated by the looming expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement. No one knew what the system was going to be beyond the 2010 season and owners across the league, trying to make their case for an overhaul of a system that funnels nearly 59 percent of total football revenue to the players, were holding the line on mega-contracts.

Teams like the Jets certainly crossed that line and argued the CBA was not an impediment to deal-making, but paying an offensive lineman or a cornerback is different from doling out dough for one of the league's marquee QBs.

Guess what? Last night, when Brady put his John Hancock on an extension, there was no more clarity about the CBA negotiations than before. NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith came out the day before Brady's deal was done and told Bloomberg News he feels a lockout is coming in March.

The Kraft family is among the most-plugged-in and powerful ownership groups in the NFL, so perhaps they know something the rest of us, including Smith, don't. But it doesn't seem like the labor situation is any less complicated than it was back in June. It still looks like iceberg dead ahead for the NFL in 2011.

While the CBA negotiations don't have a happy ending yet, the Brady negotiations do.

It makes it a little harder for the owners to argue the system is broken when one of their most prominent members just handed out a $72 million deal, with $48.5 million guaranteed, on the same night that the 2010 season, the last of the onerous, untenable CBA, kicked off.

With Brady's involvement in the NFLPA, his remuneration is now a little bit of ammunition for the players at the labor line of scrimmage.

The Krafts know that. But they also know they have a franchise quarterback who goes into this season not wondering about his future, and they have a five-year window to tap into his talent and bring a fourth Lombardi Trophy to Patriot Place. Brady is as synonymous with these Patriots, as his boyhood idol, Joe Montana, was with the 49ers. You can't really put a price tag on a legacy.

Plus, the Patriots like to brag about the brand equity created by their winning ways. It's true that veterans in the latter stages of their career consider the Patriots because of their standing in the league. However, one such veteran once said that brand equity has less to do with the ownership and the coach than it does the quarterback. Other players want to play with Brady. He is a draw, not only for fans and sponsors, but for fellow players.

Since taking over the team in 1994, the Krafts have done everything in their power to make the Patriots one of the NFL's preeminent franchises, and they've succeeded. You don't win 65 percent of your games without ruffling some feathers or making some tough decisions.

For the sake of CBA solidarity, it would have been very easy for the Krafts to hold the line, make Brady play out this season with the $6.5 million in compensation left on his deal and then franchise him in February before the current CBA expired. Instead, they put winning on the field above everything else. That's what great owners do.

In the end, Brady's deal is a win-win-win. Brady is fairly compensated and doesn't have to take the risk of playing out this season -- or driving the streets of the Back Bay -- before he gets his money. He can also go back to his union brethren with his helmet held high because he didn't take another discounted deal.

The Krafts win because they have a happy quarterback and their cozy relationship with Brady remains intact. They can also point out the labor lunacy of Brady's guaranteed money being driven by the $50 million No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford got from the Rams.

Fans win because they don't have to fret over the idea of TB12's contract situation torpedoing the season.

Now, about that Logan Mankins situation ...

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The word

Christopher L. Gasper riffs on the news

Dearth

...That's what the Patriots have when it comes to picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. After all those years of stockpiling picks the way a survivalist does non-perishables the Patriots have just five picks in this year's draft, thanks to Band-aid trades for Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco and Aqib Talib. Five picks would be the fewest draft picks in franchise history. (Part of that is attributable to the trimming of the draft to just seven rounds in 1994). Further complicating matters is that two of the Patriots' greatest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback, positions where they have sustained draft droughts. With that in mind, I'm convinced the Patriots are going trade back out of the first round of a quanity-over-quality draft where you're just as likely to pick a Pro Bowl player in the second and third round as you are in the first round.

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