After signing a new contract extension that runs through the 2017 season, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is being hailed by the media and fans as a team-first player willing to take below-market value in order to help the Patriots stay competitive.
However, that deal may not be winning Brady many fans among the other quarterbacks (or their agents) looking for new contracts, because Brady's deal just shook up the marketplace at the position considerably.
From both Brady's and the Patriots' perspective, it's hard to find something not to like about this extension.
As Peter King of Sports Illustrated reports, the Patriots will receive $15 million in added cap space over the next two seasons as a result of the extension. That cap space is sorely needed by New England, especially with the salary cap expected to remain fairly stagnant over the next few seasons.
Brady doesn't exactly get shafted, either. Yes, the three years and $27 million that were tacked on to to his old contract is staggeringly below market value for a quarterback of his caliber.
However, as Ed Werder and Field Yates of ESPN point out, Brady's new contract nearly doubles the amount of guaranteed money that he'll receive over its life. Brady is now set to receive $30 million in guaranteed money over the next five seasons no matter what, and the entire $57 million is guaranteed against injury.
According to Jarett Bell of USA Today, that makes it cheers and backslaps all around in Beantown.
Another reason for Patriots haters to grumble? The GQ quarterback has team-first synergy with management, living up to the cliché that it's not all about the money. In an era when contract talks often become squabbles over the last nickel, Brady has thrown a touchdown pass to the free agency end zone, which could lure new blood and keep old blood, like receiver Wes Welker.
It's once you travel outside New England that those cheers take on another tone, especially if you just so happen to be a Super Bowl-winning quarterback in search of a mega-deal.
It took all of one day for the media to start speculating about what effect Brady's contract could have on negotiations between the Baltimore Ravens and quarterback Joe Flacco. As Bell theorizes, there will probably be those that say, "Take less for the team, Joe. Look at Brady."
Sure enough, it didn't take Flacco's camp long to address the issue, and as USA Today's Robert Klemko reports, Flacco's agent made it clear that Brady's new deal has no impact on the one for his client.
"There's no impact whatsoever on what we're doing," Joe Linta, Flacco's agent, told USA Today Sports. "It doesn't matter. It's an extension for cap purposes. And we don't know all the details at this point.
"The bottom line is, whether Brady took a pay cut or took $27 million a year, it wouldn't have an impact on what we're doing. We've determined a number that we think is fair with respect for the Ravens' cap situation."
Linta has a point. While this is the second time in Brady's career that he's inked a deal that was perceived as below market value, the 35-year-old has also made a ton of money in between them. Flacco is a 28-year-old in search of his first big payday, the contract that will set him up for life.
With that said though, in today's age, these sorts of negotiations play out very publicly. Brady "taking one for the team" could cast Flacco in a negative light if negotiations between him and the Ravens become at all contentious.
Don't think that public relations don't matter, especially in a day where players can make more from endorsements than they do from their contracts.
Then there's the matter of the "second tier" free agents, players such as Matt Moore and Jason Campbell. Sure, they may not be Pro Bowlers, but both have significant starting experience and are available in a season where both the free-agent and draft classes are weak at quarterback.
Teams have been overspending on signal-callers for years (Matt Cassel, Kevin Kolb, Matt Flynn), but Brady's extension certainly doesn't help the chances of a free-agent passer hitting the jackpot this year.
It's not just the quarterbacks, either. This is a deal that could easily impact free agency as a whole. Agents can say that it won't, and the math isn't as simple as teams might make it out to be, but it's not hard to imagine a front office or two saying, "If Tom Brady is willing to take $9 million a year, why should we pay that defensive end or wide receiver $8 million?"
Get a few teams asking that question and the whole marketplace could shift.
Maybe that's a good thing. With the salary cap expected to remain flat over the next few seasons and many teams with little cap space, a bucket of cold water thrown on free-agent spending could help more teams remain competitive.
That would be good for the teams and, by extension, their fans.
Just don't tell that to the players. They hate cold water, and Tom Brady may have just cost some of them quite a bit of money.
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