On football

It all adds up to a worthwhile deal

By Albert R. Breer
Globe Staff / September 10, 2010

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This offseason has been about building a new and different future for the Patriots and getting younger from front to back.

But nothing secures their future more than what happened yesterday in the offices of Gillette Stadium, where Tom Brady put pen to paper on a deal that could well make him a career Patriot, and does make him the game’s highest-paid player (if temporarily).

Brady’s four-year extension worth $72 million will take him through the 2014 season. The deal’s mechanics will be worked out and the contract will be turned into the league today, and does more to assure the Patriots will contend into the new decade than any 20-something kid will. Quarterback, after all, is the most important position on the field, and Brady is one of the best to ever line up under center.

And while yesterday’s early-morning car accident involving Brady didn’t exactly put the wheels in motion on this one — the process has been in high gear for weeks now — it did put into perspective how important it was to get this thing finalized before he stepped in harm’s way again.

This is a player who, just two years ago, saw firsthand how quickly a season can end, with Bernard Pollard’s lunge into Brady’s left knee changing the quarterback’s perspective forever. It wasn’t his first injury or surgery, but it was significant enough (don’t forget the infection and follow-up surgeries) to show an athlete just how tenuous his position as superstar really is.

“That’s a big part of it. This is a physical game,’’ Brady said in a candid moment in front of the masses at his locker Wednesday. “I’ve had four surgeries in eight years — my shoulder and my knee and my groin, and another one, too. But pretty much every other year you’re having a surgery. Some are major — all surgeries are major as far as I’m concerned now.

“You count your blessings when you come off the field. I think you have a new appreciation when you do come off the field, win or lose. You’re trying to win every time out, obviously. But I think you also pinch yourself every time you walk off the field healthy and say, ‘Man, at least I get a chance to go out next week and play also.’ ’’

Here’s the thing: Brady had to prove to nobody that he isn’t about the money in this negotiation.

He showed that the last time. His six-year, $60 million contract from 2005 was about security more than anything else. He agreed to it two years before the expiration of the prior deal, and 44 percent of the then-new contract was guaranteed.

This one most certainly has an element of that to it as well. The bottom line is that Brady, from a financial standpoint, would’ve been better off waiting for Peyton Manning — whose leverage dictates that the $25 million per year he’s seeking is not outrageous at all — to do his deal first.

And that means, when Manning does sign, his numbers will likely dwarf Brady’s. But it seems that in Brady’s mind, other factors trumped any game of one-upmanship.

First and foremost, this was about being treated fairly and not hindering the market for any future players, given Brady’s prominent role in the union as the league inches closer to a potential work stoppage. That was accomplished, certainly, by making the Patriots icon the game’s highest-paid player.

Second, this was about his security, following not only the knee reconstruction of 2008, but also the broken ribs, broken finger, and busted shoulder he played through last fall. It is, after all, much easier to say, “Just wait and you’ll get paid more,’’ if you’re not the one bracing for the 16 highway pile-ups that add up to an NFL season.

Brady’s new contract reflects both aspects: making the NFL’s most bejeweled signal-caller its highest-paid player, and providing security for a 33-year-old who’s been knocked around more than a little bit in his decade playing pro football.

Start with the $72 million Brady is set to collect and you’ll see that, at every level, the deal goes to rewarding the quarterback at the highest level a football player ever has been.

The average annual value (AAV) on the extension is $18 million; Eli Manning’s six-year, $97.5 million extension came in at $16.25 million per year.

If you want to see it as a five-year deal, the most fair calculation puts Brady’s 2010 number at $12 million, since what the deal he signed in 2005 was, in essence, a four-year, $48 million extension that was front-loaded and heavy with guarantees at the request of the quarterback’s camp. That would make Brady’s new contract, from the 2010-14 perspective, a five-year, $84 million pact with an AAV of $16.8 million.

If you want to take his actual 2010 earnings of $6.5 million, you come to $78.5 million over five years and a $15.7 million AAV.

Either way, it pushes past the AAV on the $106.9 million Eli Manning takes home from 2009-15, which lands at $15.27 million.

Just as important, though, is that Brady gets his peace of mind.

Will Peyton Manning blow by this deal? Most certainly. When all’s said and done, Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who has two years left on his contract, will likely join him, too.

But when Brady said this week that all he was worried about was Cincinnati, he wasn’t kidding. Word is that his top concern, after Thursday morning’s car accident, was finding a way to get to the stadium as fast as possible and making up the time he’d lost.

The balancing act wasn’t an easy one — knowing it was important to do a deal before the season started while trying to maintain negotiating strength — but Brady and agent Don Yee and the Kraft family were able to walk that tightrope.

And now the quarterback can turn his focus back to where it was yesterday, as his Audi was being towed away and the news helicopters went airborne, and on to the season at hand.

The Patriots, on the other hand, can look to a few more with one of the game’s all-time greats in their stead.

Albert R. Breer can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @albertbreer.

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