Tom Brady is a 42 year old free agent who will be turning 43 when the season starts. Brady could set a trend with his deal, and that could be great for the NFL, or it could cause serious damage to the NFL.
Patrick Mahomes (24) and Lamar Jackson (23) probably won’t be paying much attention to Tom Brady’s free agency, because Brady’s contract won’t affect them at all. Mahomes is going to get his $40 million, and in a season or two, Jackson will get his money. But, Aaron Rodgers (36) and Ben Roethlisberger (37), will be watching Brady very closely. Rodgers will be 40-year old when his current contract expires, and Roethlisberger will be 38. What Brady does during free agency, and how he performs under his contract will dictate future contracts for aging quarterbacks.
Negotiating Brady’s contract is a difficult situation for both the New England Patriots and Brady’s agent Don Yee. There is no prescient set yet. You can argue that Tom Brady has lost a step, and is no longer the quarterback he used to be, and even if that was the case, he’s still performing better than an average quarterback. Brady completed 373 passes, for 4,057 yards, and 24 touchdowns.
Max Kellerman and Nick Wright will try and tell you that Brady has declined, but in a season when Rob Gronkowski retired, the offensive line was decimated by injury, and Patriots receivers lead the NFL in drops, Brady’s numbers are not that different than his numbers in 2017 when he was the league MVP. In 2017 Brady completed 385 passes, for 4,577 yards, and 32 touchdowns. In 2017 Brady had Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan, and Rob Gronkowski to throw the ball to. In 2019 Brady had an injured Julian Edelman, James White, a rookie receiver, an undrafted free agent rookie receiver, an inept tight end group, and Mohamed Saun who forgot how to catch the football.
This isn’t me defending Brady, this is just pointing out that Brady has a good argument to say he’s worth the $30 million that the Patriots are apparently willing to pay him. What complicates the situation is Brady turning 43 at the start of this season, and even if Brady is worth $30 million now, how long will he be worth $30 million? These are questions that Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick are going to have to try and answer by March. But, for the sake of this piece, let’s say Tom Brady continues playing at this level until he’s 45. He brings the Patriots back to the playoffs for the next couple of seasons, maybe he even wins another Super Bowl. Does that mean Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, and Drew Brees will continue playing at high levels until they’re 45?
Brady has taken great care of his body, and he puts in the work during the off-season and during the season to make sure he’s physically prepared to play the grueling 16 game schedule and playoff runs. But, that doesn’t mean that Drew Brees doesn’t take amazing care of his body. That doesn’t mean that Patrick Mahomes isn’t going to look at Brady, and take care of his body the same way to try and extend his career. Tom Brady has to be the poster boy for quarterbacks, maybe not in the sense of how he plays the game, but how he takes care of himself, his pliability, diet, his strange obsession with what type of water he’s drinking, and his unforgivable hatred for strawberries.
Tom Brady could be a trendsetter in the NFL, and we could start seeing more and more quarterbacks playing into their 40’s. But, what still needs to be seen is, does Tom Brady inspire quarterbacks to take care of themselves and keep playing at high levels into their 40’s, or has Brady set up the NFL to sign a bunch of bad contracts with a bunch of ageing quarterbacks who are not performing up to their contracts, because Tom Brady is the exception and nobody will ever live up to the bar he set?