With Bill Belichick telling his team "Smell ya later!" on Monday, the Patriots are entering an approximately 30-day stretch of quiet season.
When they get back, a primary piece of business to attend to will be Tom Brady's contract, which expires in early March.
With ink drying on new deals for Carson Wentz, Ben Roethlisberger and Russell Wilson and the going rate for the league's best quarterbacks being north of $33 million per year, Brady's new (and presumably final) deal will be fascinating when it's finalized.
What year will it expire? We need to order black bunting to encircle the six-state region ASAP.
And will Brady be paid commensurate with great quarterbacks like Wilson, Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers, who've accomplished a fraction of what Brady has?
Brady's never played a regular season game in the "walk year" of a deal. The closest he came was in 2010. That year, wrangling that was causing some friction in the spring continued all the way through training camp and to the eve of the season.
A Brady car accident on the Thursday before the opener pushed negotiations over the finish line, Robert Kraft told the New York Times.
It's not going to get like that this time. Brady adroitly dealt with a flurry of contract questions at minicamp last week, saying, "I don't think about it too much. I think those things work themselves out."
In late January, Jonathan Kraft indicated a deal could/would/should be done by the start of training camp.
The most revealing statement made by Brady this offseason came when he was on with Jimmy Kimmel. Asked why he isn't the highest-paid player in the league, Brady said, "That's a good question. That's usually, when I don't want to answer a question, I always say, 'That's a good question.' I think the thing I've always felt for me in my life, winning has been a priority. And my wife [model Gisele Bundchen] makes a lot of money. I'm a little smarter than you think."
The allusion to being smart may have simply meant he married well, but it could also refer to the off-field pursuits he's got with the growing TB12 empire and a media production company.
Between that, the lack of an obvious successor and a sense in the building that Brady and Bill Belichick are in as good a place in their relationship as they've been in some time, there's really no angst to these proceedings.
Brady beat back the Jimmy G. challenge from 2014 to 2017. During that time he was in a very real fight to prove he deserved to finish his career in New England. Think about it: Brady convinced Belichick to go against the circle-of-life philosophy he'd adhered to his entire career from Kosar to Bledsoe to Mankins and Milloy. And when Belichick relented, he didn't do so without reservations.
All that's now passed.
If the Patriots see Jarrett Stidham as his successor, that's fine but by the time Stidham could conceivably play as well as Brady, Brady will be near the finish line. Maybe Belichick too.
It's a matter of "when" not "if" with this last deal. And when it does come down, we'll have a timeline for Brady's final act.
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