Tom Brady has long stated that he hopes to play into his mid-40s, and with a new two-year extension in hand, a contractual pathway now exists to make that dream a reality.
According to multiple reports, Brady and the Patriots agreed to a $70 million extension on Sunday that will give the quarterback an $8 million raise from $15 to 23 million this year and pay him $30 million in 2020 and $32 million in 2021. The deal also creates $5.5 million in cap space for the team this year, but because the two new years automatically void after 2019, they effectively serve as placeholders, so the two sides will most likely go back to the negotiating table on a year-to-year basis from here on out.
In the meantime, Brady has some extra cash plus the assurance that he won't play under the franchise tag in his final years, while the Patriots can rest easy knowing they won't be locked into a prohibitively expensive financial arrangement should Brady's age finally catch up to him. In many respects, this is a best case scenario for everyone involved, a mutually beneficial arrangement to help navigate a situation that has never played out in NFL history.
"It's a unique situation I'm in," Brady said after Monday's joint practice with the Detroit Lions. "I'm in my 20th year with the same team. I'm 42 years old, so pretty much uncharted territory I think for everybody."
Given all he's accomplished, it's easy to lose sight of how crazy this whole scenario is.
Tom Brady is 42 years old. Let that sink in for a second. It's been a full five years since the Patriots began the process of replacing Brady, drafting Jimmy Garoppolo with the intention of grooming him to become the team's quarterback of the future.
Brady was 37 then, right at the age you typically expect even a future Hall of Famer to start falling off. But instead of decline, he went on to win three Super Bowls in five years, reached a fourth, and became the oldest player in NFL history to win league MVP honors at age 40.
Brady outlasted Garoppolo, and in doing so he made fools of the legion of prognosticators who loudly predicted his imminent football doom. Now, Brady is set to enter his 20th year as the starting quarterback of the Patriots, and there's no reason to believe he won't still rank as one of the top players in football.
That is, frankly, astonishing.
According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, there have only ever been 27 players who have played in the NFL at age 42 or older throughout the league's 100-year history, and 17 of those were either kickers or punters. Five of the remaining players were quarterbacks, but none of them were anywhere near productive contributors by that point. Prior to Brady, the only quarterback who actually excelled at even age 41 was Warren Moon, and his play fell of a cliff the following year at age 42.
So if you're the Patriots, how do you handle an outlier like Brady when literally all of football history is telling you this isn't supposed to happen? And if you're Brady, how do you balance accepting that trepidation against the desire to get the contract (and respect) you feel you deserve?
The two sides took their first step down that path together on Sunday. Who knows where it will lead from here?
Mac Cerullo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Mac on Twitter at @MacCerullo.