Jan 20, 2013; Foxboro, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) prepares to make a pass during the third quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

New England Patriots on Paper: Brady deal sets high water mark

“The Edge…there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.”

Tom Brady has been there.  In his football career he has been to the edge many times, a place where you can see the high water mark of the NFL, where the waves break and and race up on shore, and then recede just as rapidly.

He’s stood there with his toes in the sand, watching 198 players selected before him and 31 other teams being sucked back into ocean until the NFL tide once again reaches that high water mark each February…

…and for certain he represents as much to the New England Patriots, the greatest player in franchise history and immortalized as the face of the franchise forever.  As has been the case for most of his storied career, his salary has been the high water mark for the franchise, and as the Franchise, no player deserved or would receive any more money than he.

It is still the case, and will continue to be the case much to the chagrin of any free agent looking to cash in by coming to the Patriots, because Brady’s new deal does more than just open up millions more dollars to use against the cap, it also sets the limit as to how much money any player would be offered to join the Patriots.

Five years 57 million dollars?  No one is going to even approach that – so does that price players like Mike Wallace and Dashon Goldson right out of the Patriots’ market?  Will it do the same to New England’s “Big 3″ free agents, Wes Welker, Aqib Talib and Sebastian Vollmer?

That’s completely up to them.

And do the math.  To re-sign each of these players there would have to be major money up front as a signing bonus so that the dollars paid could be spread evenly throughout the life of their contacts…and hopefully they would accept large up front cash in exchange for taking a smaller cap hit…

Kraft and Belichick needed to get this Brady deal done so that they could go to these players and say ‘This is what Tommy’s making as the Franchise, and, proportionately, this is what is fair to offer you.’

They have, essentially, set their market price – and either the players want to be part of it, or they want to be somewhere else.

All along Robert Kraft has been saying that deals will get done so long as the agents don’t screw it up, but a baseline needed to be established that agents couldn’t try to breach, and Brady’s new deal does that…and effectively puts the ball in the agents’ court…and it’s not sitting well with Welker, nor his agent.

The 49ers let the Franchise Tag deadline come and go without tagging Goldson, who would have received $7.25 million for the season – the average of the top 5 safety contracts in the NFL.  Would New England spend that kind of money for the former 4th round pick?  Four years, $30 million?

Wallace wasn’t tagged either, and Pittsburgh would have been on the hook for right around $10 million if he had.  Would the Patriots see that as value, or as a way to handcuff themselves from taking advantage of a buyer’s market?  Four years, $40 million?

And it is a buyer’s market, but whomever has the most cash to spend won’t necessarily reap the most value.  Case in point, Goldon is said to be favoring Cincinnati, who is willing to spend freely.  Why?  They are reportedly a ridiculous $66 million under the projected cap and already have a playoff quality team.  With that much money to spend in free agency, they could sign the top talent at safety, cornerback, defensive line, receiver and running back and still be able to sign their draft picks and look toward extending a few core components.

The Patriots have considerably less money to spend, but are fiscally conservative, not to mention that they have a number of core contributors signed for the foreseeable future.  If the NFL printed coupons to use in free agency, Bob Kraft and Bill Belichick would be sitting around a table at Dennys’ every Sunday morning, scissors in hand, clipping away at deal after deal between bites of their Lumberjack Slams.

Absurd notion, I know, but it illustrates how conservative the team is – and now that they’ve set the high water mark for free agent money, there are only two things that can happen – either players accept what the Patriots offer and become part of the model franchise in the National Football League, or they don’t…

…in which case, they get sucked back into the ocean and may or may not be able to ride the wave back with the annual NFL high tide in February – only one team gets to do that, and the others have to take their chances with the volatile currents that will sweep them back out to deep waters, where things like football don’t matter.

“Civilization ends at the waterline. Beyond  that, we all enter the food chain, and not always right at the top.”

Hunter S. Thompson

Tags: Dashon Goldson Mike Wallace New England Patriots Pittsburgh Steelers San Francisco 49ers Tom Brady Wes Welker

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