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Respect for the Patriot way is why Brady has never been about the money

Tom Brady

(Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

We live in the era of illogical compensation for professional athletes. But is there any doubt Tom Brady should be the highest paid quarterback in the NFL? Of course not.

The greatest QB of our generation, perhaps in the history of the league, was not in that position last week. His scheduled 2019 salary of $15 million meant he would be greatly out-earned by many signal callers, including the mediocre Kirk Cousins and rookie Kyler Murray.

The New England Patriots certainly understand that. But they also know, Brady has never really been about the money. Truthfully, he really doesn’t need it. According to Forbes Magazine, Brady’s super model wife, Gisele Bundchen, has an estimated net worth of $488 million, which is more than twice Brady’s $235 million.

Maybe for that reason, Brady’s career has been categorized by his numerous concessions to help his team’s salary cap. Brady has always deferred money and taken less than he is worth in order to help the Patriots get other players they need. He’s the consummate team player.

But last week, the Patriots repaid the kindness, increasing his yearly pay by $8 million (to $23 million) for the 2019 season, after which he was scheduled to become a free agent.

“It’s a unique situation I’m in – 20th year with the same team, I’ll be 42 years old. So pretty much uncharted territory for everybody,” said Brady on Monday. “I’m going to go out there and do the best I can this year and see what happens.”

The deal officially is a two-year extension that keeps him tethered to the Pats through the 2021 season. But the final two years are considered “void” years, which means either side can opt out. This is done to help salary cap considerations.  So what the Patriots have done is ease Brady’s mind for the next three seasons – just in case he wants to play.

Before the 2019 season ends, Brady and the Pats will get together again and decide what to do about 2020. But there is no reason to believe they won’t agree to extend the deal for at least one more season.

“It’s really the reality for most guys in the NFL. I don’t want anyone to think I’m any different from everyone else. Football is a tough business. It’s a production business. I’m ready to go this year, and that’s really what matters and that’s where my focus is,” Brady said.

“I’ve just had a great history here. I love playing quarterback here. I love this team, this organization, Mr. (Robert) Kraft, Jonathan (Kraft), Coach (Bill) Belichick, all the coaches, all the players. The focus is this year and what we have to do. That’s where I’m focused. That’s all that really matters in the end, and that’s what this team expects of me — to put everything into it, like I always have. I’m really excited for the year.”

Brady gets $70 million in new money with the extension. His annual salary would escalate to $30 million in 2020 and $32 million in 2021.

The terms of the extension free up $5.5 million against the salary cap in 2019, giving the Patriots about $14.5 million in cap space. Brady had been scheduled for a $27 million cap hit under the previous contract.

Tom Brady

(Photo by Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

As it is, the new deal still makes Brady the sixth-highest paid QB in the league, tying him with Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints. But as we said, Brady’s relationship with Bill Belichick and owner Robert Kraft has always compelled him to do what’s best for the Patriots.

Brady continues to defy the odds by remaining healthy and productive at his advanced age. But as this deal reflects, he and the Patriots are taking a common sense approach to the future. Remember, if Brady plays out the contract he will be 44 years old.

There is no precedent in league history for a QB of his age to start an entire 16-game season. Still, the Patriots believe Brady is capable of it. You can bet, if Belichick believed Brady was losing his fastball he would have cautioned the organization to think twice about committing to him again.

The defending Super Bowl champions will need Brady to keep upright because they really do not have much depth at the position. Brady will be backed up by veteran Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham, a fourth-round pick in the 2019 draft.

The mutual admiration between team and player is uncommonly solid. That’s why The Patriots have never allowed Brady to play a single snap in the final year of a contract. They have extended him six times in order to keep him happy and unencumbered by the thought of impending free agency.

“The culture has always been that Brady takes less and therefore everybody there should take less,” an NFL executive told The Athletic. “But with Brady, I have always felt there was a little bit of self-preservation — like, ‘I never want to put them in a position where they are thinking about cutting me because the number is so big.’”

So that might be why Brady has decided to proceed the way he has and why he’s still content even though he knows that from 2011-18, he’s made $48 million less than Aaron Rodgers, $37 million less Brees and is $27 million behind Matthew Stafford.

Brady doesn’t need to be paid like the greatest to know that he is.