If, as it appears, the Patriots won’t give quarterback Tom Brady a new contract and if, as it appears, Brady will complete the final year of his contract, the Patriots will have a big decision to make in early 2020.
After the 2019 season, the Patriots will have to decide whether to re-sign Brady before he becomes a free agent, whether to let him become a free agent and then try to re-sign him, whether to not even try to re-sign him at all, or whether to apply the franchise tag.
The last option gives Brady a ton of leverage, if the Patriots choose that path. Brady’s cap number for 2019 sits at $27 million (the fact that the Patriots received a $5 million cap credit for incentives he didn’t earn last year doesn’t reduce it), Brady’s franchise tender for 2020 becomes $32.4 million, under the rule that guarantees the franchise-tagged player a 20-percent raise over his cap number.
So would the Patriots offer Brady $32.4 million for one more year? Also, given Brady’s history of taking less than what he could get, would he return on a one-year deal worth less than the franchise tag?
It would be the biggest franchise tags in league history, and there’s still a chance Brady would chose not to squeeze every last penny — because that’s what he has always done.
There’s another angle to consider in this regard. If/when Brady finishes 2019 and if/when it’s clear he plans on playing in 2020, other teams may start poking around agent Don Yee to see if Brady wants to make a late-career change of venue, and they may start throwing around numbers that Brady would not be able to refuse. Or that maybe would get him to want more from the Patriots than he otherwise would take.
Regardless, that $32.4 million number for 2020 is looming. And it could be one of the main reasons why a new deal hasn’t been done. It also could be the thing that ultimately opens the door for Brady to do that which multiple other great quarterbacks have done: Finish his career with a new team in a new city.