By: Bob George/BosSports.net
February 22, 2005

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First in a series of positional analysis for the 2004 New England Patriots. Today: quarterbacks.

Peyton Manning can't beat the Patriots on the field. But he may beat them off it.

How, you say? We'll give you 98 million reasons how.

How must Tom Brady feel, seeing how well Manning is paid and how cheaply (relatively speaking) he is? With a 9-0 playoff record and a 3-0 Super Bowl record on his resume, to say nothing of a 48-14 regular season mark, it should be Brady who is paid Manning money, not the other way around.

Brady's current deal runs through 2006. His 2005 cap hit is just over $10 million. With his deal running only two more years, there have been rumblings that talks have begun with Brady's agent, Don Yee and the Patriots on an extension. There is no doubt that, despite their not being willing to do new deals any earlier than necessary, the Patriots will feel some sense of urgency pretty soon on locking up Brady. A $14 million projected cap hit for 2006 is also good reason to get talks going, but it's beyond 2006 that provides the real reason to open up a dialogue sooner rather than later.

Don't expect these talks, if they happen, to be smooth and routine. They may be, but it is not a given. Bob Kraft had some ill-advised remarks on this subject down in Jacksonville, saying, to paraphrase, that things could get sticky if Brady demands too much money while acknowledging that signing Brady won't come cheap.

Is Brady the most underpaid player in the NFL? If he thinks he is, you might either hope that Rohan Davey continues to cut his teeth well over in Europe or that Scott Pioli has some sleeper college quarterback on his radar screen. Brady will be in a position to demand Manning money when his deal comes up, and if the Patriots won't pay him, someone else certainly will.

How the Patriots intend to deal with such a prospect will test their genius even more than the loss of both Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel will test Bill Belichick's genius. Seriously, if Brady intends to make a big score with his next contract (and don't blame his girlfriend Bridget Moynahan; how can she possibly be impressed by money when she is likely richer than Brady herself?), and the Patriots intend on keeping up their tight fiscal policies to try and build a completely sound and balanced team, the Patriots will be looking at a new quarterback for 2007 and beyond.

Fortunately, this is all in the "if" stage. It is also in the "not likely" category as well. While contract talks between Yee and the club might drag out a bit and become dicey at times, the smart thinking is that Brady and the club will find some common ground which will keep Brady in New England for a long time without killing the team's salary cap. The reasons why center around Brady's attitude towards his team, the organization, and himself personally.

Brady knows full well the ramifications of Manning's huge salary in Indianapolis. Manning's ridiculous cap hit will prevent the Colts from building up the kind of defense which will enable them to get to the next level in the NFL. The Colts are on record anyway as preferring to emphasize offense as long as Manning is their quarterback, which turns this situation into a "those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it" deal. The Colts signed Manning to this deal assuming that they will get to the Super Bowl some day on the arm of Manning alone. So far, that plan is not working.

Brady loves New England, and he loves the Patriots. There has never been any report of any kind which portrays Brady as feeling anything negative about the area or the club. He has been through three quarterback coaches, and he still enjoys it here. The departure of Weis may test his mettle, but if he can survive the losses of Dick Rehbein and John Hufnagel, he can get along without Weis just fine.

Another reason Brady loves it here is because the Patriots took a chance on him where other teams would not. Two things gnaw at Brady to this day: having to compete with Dallas quarterback Drew Henson for the starting job while at Michigan, and being selected 199th in the 2000 NFL Draft. Brady told Rehbein and Belichick in 2000 that he was "the best choice they ever made". Then, when Drew Bledsoe went down with his 2001 injury and Brady was allowed to keep his starting job, Brady came through and has been grateful to the Patriots ever since for giving him the chance to succeed.

This loyalty to the club will go a long way towards Brady agreeing to a deal which will not cripple the salary cap. While a quarterback of Brady's pedigree can command insane amounts of money from delirious teams who don't think before they spend, Brady will want to stay put bad enough for him to not become unreasonable in his salary demands. Brady knows that he ought not to take money away from other areas of the team which need monetary attention (offensive line, secondary, to name a few).

And besides, Brady's ancillary earning power is formidable. His only drawback is that he is not as dynamic as Dan Marino nor as flamboyant as Terry Bradshaw. He does have some of Joe Namath's sex appeal in that he does have a Hollywood gal pal and most every young single girl in New England wants him as her prom date. In addition to all the continued comparisons to Joe Montana, one additional thing the two men share (in addition to cleft chins) is a sort of soft-spoken charm and pleasant manner in which they present themselves. Brady can score big on Madison Avenue with the right products and the right strategies, and Yee knows this full well.

This is not an original thought concerning Brady. Whatever money he doesn't make from the Patriots, he can easily recoup elsewhere. Last we checked, money made from endorsements counts zero against the cap. With each playoff game and Super Bowl won, Brady's marketing ability continues to skyrocket. This marketing ability helps the Patriots incredibly, as they hope to perpetuate their winning ways while managing to hold on to franchise cornerstones like Brady.

And Brady craves winning, not that other players don't. Brady craves winning so much that he will likely extend the Patriots every chance possible to come up with a deal that will indeed keep him here for his entire career. Given the fact that he knows he is in a winning situation, that less salary will keep more wins coming, and that he will be filthy rich anyway, it would be beyond comprehension if Brady were to walk after 2006.

In addition to rooting for lots of endorsements, Patriot management ought to also be rooting for a long and prosperous movie career for Moynahan, as well as wedding bells for Tom and Bridget. You won't hear Brady complaining about "I gotta feed my family!" or anything like that. Granted, he will have to try and stay out of gossip rags, but maybe Bridget's the kind of girl who will become more of a Joanne Woodward or a Rita Wilson rather than an Elizabeth Taylor or a Joan Collins. Brady didn't get on with party girl Tara Reid in 2002; Moynahan may be more his type: low-key, more grounded, more family-oriented versus fast lane-oriented.

In that case, Bridget, drag him out to your folks' place in Longmeadow, tie the knot, and keep Tom happy. And, most important, keep him home. In Foxborough.

Though Longmeadow is a pretty good alternative.

Next installment: running backs.


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