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Brady wants to be a money quarterback - on the field

By Christopher L. Gasper
Globe Staff / August 26, 2009

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FOXBOROUGH - During Patriots training camp, Tom Brady playfully referred to owner Robert Kraft as “L.R.C.’’ That stands for “lower right-hand corner,’’ which is where Kraft’s signature appears on each player’s paycheck. The signature on Brady’s checks isn’t about to change, but it might be time for the dollar amount to.

Brady is among the most iconic quarterbacks in the NFL, but he is also among the most underpaid.

Among them, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, and Philip Rivers have won three Super Bowls this decade, the same number as Brady. None of the three has won a league MVP, set the NFL record for touchdown passes in a season (50), or led a team to an undefeated regular season, all feats Brady accomplished during his last full NFL campaign in 2007.

Yet, with the six-year, $93 million deal that Rivers received from the San Diego Chargers Monday, all three quarterbacks are higher paid than Brady, who has two years left on the six-year, $60 million extension he signed in 2005, which included $26.5 million in bonus money (a $14.5 million signing bonus and a $12 million option bonus). Even Brady’s former backup, Matt Cassel, got a six-year, $63 million deal with $28 million guaranteed from the Kansas City Chiefs.

If Brady, who will carry a $14.627 million cap charge this year but will make more than $8 million ($5 million base salary, $3 million roster bonus, $6,000-plus workout bonus), is upset about his compensation, it certainly didn’t show yesterday.

Asked whether he would consider contract talks prior to this season if the team came to him, Brady didn’t weaken his bargaining position, but he let his priorities be known. His focus is on playing the Washington Redskins Friday night in the third preseason game.

“If somebody wants to pay you more money? [Heck], I think we’re all probably underpaid, don’t you think?’’ said Brady. “We all wish we were paid more. That’s not the reality. I’m focused on this year. I’ve thought about it. I just want to go out and have a great year.

“Believe me, nothing is guaranteed. That’s what I learned last year. You don’t know whether you’ll be out here next week or the following week, so I think the most important thing is to focus on this week, and the more prepared you are for this week, the less chance you’ll have to play poorly or to have an injury. If we have goals to have a great season, we’re going to need to be on the field playing and getting better.’’

Brady took the big-picture view to the contracts that Rivers and Manning received.

“I think it’s great for those players,’’ said Brady. “They’ve worked hard to deserve those. Any time a guy gets a contract like that, it’s a pretty cool thing. I’ve had that experience a couple of times. It really shows the health of the league. The league is expanding and growing, and hopefully I’m able to participate for as long as somebody else wants me.

Age and injury are factors when it comes to Brady’s next deal. Rivers and Roethlisberger are 27. Manning is 28. Brady turned 32 this month and is coming back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament and a torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee. He will have to show the Patriots he is the same player.

Brady acknowledged yesterday that he hasn’t been perfect in the preseason, but his mantra is that the injury is part of his past and not his future.

“I’ve already paid the price for it,’’ Brady said. “Moving forward, you just got to try to work as hard as you can to get back to your normal self. I really feel like I am. Hopefully, I can contribute in the way that I have in the past, so I don’t think about it. I don’t lose sleep over it.

“I just get up and try to make the right plays and make the right decisions. I think if I make a poor play, I never have thought, ‘I wonder if that was because of my injury last year.’ I figure, well, I got to make improvements just like every year where things don’t go your way.’’

Brady measures his career in more than money. Based on the history that he and his agent, Don Yee, have when it comes to contracts, they’ll consider the deals the other members of the QB club signed as guidelines, but they won’t be a road map.

When contacted yesterday, Yee declined comment.

You can’t put a dollar value on the joy of winning or leaving a legacy. For Brady, the two are intertwined - his 101-27 overall record is the best during the Super Bowl era for any quarterback with at least 100 starts.

Brady’s next contract will likely be his last. There is no wing in the Hall of Fame for highest-paid players.

That is what seems to drive Brady and keep him with the Patriots.

You probably can’t put a price tag on Brady’s worth to the team and vice versa. Kraft has remained adamant that the sides will work out a deal because they always have.

“Those contract things, they always find a way to work themselves out one way or another,’’ said Brady. “So, I think the important part this time of the year is to focus on the most important priority, which is having a great season. I’m committed to that, and I know my teammates are committed to that and hopefully if we all go out and play well, we’ll all be playing for a long time.’’

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