Brady’s deal pleases Kraft
Owner calls QB ‘something special’
FOXBOROUGH — The Patriots fan in chief is as excited as anyone that New England’s franchise quarterback will be staying put for four more years, giving the team an element of continuity he feels is important for winning franchises.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Tom Brady — and their respective people — submitted a four-year contract extension to the NFL yesterday that will pay the three-time Super Bowl QB $72 million, with $48.5 million guaranteed. It makes Brady the highest-paid player in league history in regards to average annual salary.
Although Brady made only a locker room cameo yesterday afternoon, politely declining to chat with reporters, Kraft expressed happiness that the much-discussed deal is finally completed.
“Absolutely. Absolutely. I’ve been saying to people, this is our 17th season [owning the Patriots] and in that period I’ve had one wife and two quarterbacks [Brady and Drew Bledsoe] who have started the season and it should be over 20 years where we have only two quarterbacks who start the season,’’ by the time Brady’s extension expires, Kraft said.
“I think stability and continuity are important if you want to have a winning situation,’’ said the owner. “You always have to upgrade and bring in young talent, but you also have to have seasoned veterans and we’re lucky to have one of the greatest players in the history of the game, in my opinion.’’
The 2007 Most Valuable Player after an NFL-record 50 touchdown passes, Brady is already the franchise leader in nearly every passing category, including yards (30,844), completion percentage (63.3, minimum 200 attempts), and touchdowns (225). Barring injury, he will put those records out of reach before his career is over.
His rise to stardom is legend: the 199th pick of the 2000 draft out of Michigan, New England was debating between Brady and Louisiana Tech’s Tim Rattay and ultimately went with the skinny Northern California kid who did not lack for confidence. Shortly after he was drafted, Brady told Kraft he was the best decision the team had ever made.
It is likely not even Brady could have predicted the success that has followed.
Over a decade-plus, Brady and Kraft have developed a strong personal relationship — hearing that Brady had been in a car wreck Thursday morning, the owner said, was like hearing it was one of his own children — but that bond was tested during negotiations, as each man had his own interests to protect.
“I think we have a mutual respect and affection for each other where we decided we wouldn’t let this affect our personal relationship, and that’s hard,’’ Kraft said. “But our mutual respect helped to facilitate things because there’s a lot of trust and we had to work through some difficult things. These are uncertain times and we had to go ahead and do things, take certain risks on, but we believe we did the right thing to put franchise in best position to win year in and year out.’’
Though the Patriots remain at odds with Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins, the team did well to retain its own players this year, despite that uncertainty Kraft spoke of, from the as-yet-unknown future of the collective bargaining agreement.
Since March, New England has committed potentially $156 million to six players — Brady, Tully Banta-Cain, Leigh Bodden, Kevin Faulk, Stephen Neal, and Vince Wilfork. Well over $80 million of that is guaranteed.
But the bulk of that money went to Brady, without whom there might not be seven playoff appearances in his eight full seasons as starter, without whom there may not be three gleaming Lombardi Trophies in the lobby of the Patriots offices, without whom New England may not be one of the most valuable franchises in all of sports.
From that perspective, he has earned every penny.
“There’s no question — nobody deserves it more, and I’m happy for him,’’ receiver Wes Welker said. “I know it’s probably been a long process, but I’m happy he’s here and happy he’s here for a long time.’’
Brady may be the NFL’s highest-paid player with a supermodel wife, but Kraft expects nothing less than what he’s always gotten from Brady: a tremendous work ethic and a burning desire to win.
“I’ve watched him grow up as a young man; he’s spent over a third of his life here, and we’ve seen him grow and mature and evolve into the person he is today and he’s always had a sense of confidence and hard work, but I think what’s great about him is he never thinks he has it knocked,’’ Kraft said.
“He always thinks he has to work and study, and one thing that I think is special and unique, is that he can connect with everyone [associated with the team].
“It’s funny to me to see how these young rookies coming in and say, ‘That’s Tom Brady,’ and I remember him being that skinny beanpole of a young man. But he has evolved into something special as a human being and a player. We’re really lucky to have him as part of our franchise.’’
Shalise Manza Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.