With Tom Brady & the New England Patriots headed for yet another February game, we’ll have a little fun with the arguable “GOAT”’s career earnings. It’s been no secret that Brady has been thrifty & generous with his agreed upon salaries over the past decade or so, but we wanted to assess just how much he may have left on the table. While there’s no perfect science to determine this, we took a quick look at every contract Brady’s signed, assessing the market around him at that particular time, then comparing his production to players of similar age/skill, and their actual earnings versus his. At each contract, we’ve identified the amount of money he likely left on the table during the years in which he played on that deal.
The 2000 Draft & Rookie Contract
Let’s change history and assume that Brady was the top-rated QB heading into the draft. That nod actually went to Chad Pennington who the Jets selected #18 overall, and then signed to a 5 year, $23M contract. Brady of course was selected 181 picks later, and given a 3 year $866,500 deal with New England (including a $38,500 signing bonus).
Brady played out two years of that deal before being extended, earning $603,660, while Pennington reeled in $6.591M across 2000-2001.
Adjusted Earnings Result: -$5.9M
The Patriots quickly extended Brady to a 4 year, $29.625M new money deal, which carried a $7.4M AAV - 7th in the league among all QBs. Not only was this a strong deal for Brady, but it came just a few months after the Pats extended previous starting QB Drew Bledsoe to a 10 year, $102.8M contract extension. Bledsoe was traded to Buffalo not too long after Brady’s new contract was finalized.
Around the same time, the Eagles extended their former #2 overall pick Donovan McNabb to a 9 year $70M contract that paid out $30.3M over the first three seasons. McNabb was solid across those years (2002-2004) combining for 64 TDs, 25 INTs, 60% Comp., a 90.4 rating, but Brady was as good if not better (79 TDs, 40 INT, 61% Comp., 87.8 rating). Brady earned $19M across 2002-2004 from this contract before another extension was announced in 2005.
Adjusted Earnings Result: -$11.3M
28-year old Brady signed a 4 year $42.8M extension in early 2005 that came with $20M guaranteed and a $10.7M AAV. While over in Indianapolis, the Colts had recently extended a fellow by the name of Peyton to a 7 year $99.2M contract, also at the age of 28.
Brady played on this contract from 2005-2009, earning $54.5M for his efforts (64.7 Comp %, 128 TDs, 47 INTs, 98.7 Rating). Across Peyton’s 5 year span (2004-2008), he reeled in $68.1M (66.4 Comp. %, 166 TDs, 55 INT, 103.5 Rating). Peyton was flat out better statistically across this span, deeming the money earned fairly accurate.
Adjusted Earnings Result: $0
After the 2009 season, the Pats handed 33-year-old Brady a 4 year $72M contract, with $30M guaranteed and an $18M AAV. This made Brady the highest average paid QB in football, surpassing the 6 year $97.5M extension ($16.25M AAV) the Giants gave 29-year-old Eli Manning in New York and 5 year $74.25M ($14.85M AAV) deal the Redskins extended 33-year-old Donovan McNabb to.
Brady played on this deal for 3 seasons (2010-2012), compiling 109 TDs, 24 INTs, a 64.7 Comp%, and a 104.6 Rating, arguably the best 3-year span of his career. Eli’s 2010-12 span saw 86 TDs, 56 INTs, a 61% Comp. rate, and an 88.6 Rating - well below Brady’s level. McNabb threw more INTs than TDs in his first year with the Redskins, and was run out of town a few months later (traded to Minnesota).
Brady earned $48.25M across 2010-12 for his efforts, while in New York, Eli was able to pull in $52.75M for his much lesser production. While McNabb pulled in almost $19M in 2010 due to some shifty contract maneuvers prior to the new CBA. His career would finish a few months later after an unsuccessful 2011 in Minnesota.
Adjusted Earnings Result: -$4.5M
36-year-old Brady re-upped in 2013 to a 3 year $41M extension that included a $30M signing bonus, and $33M guaranteed at signing. His $13.6M AAV ranked 12th among QBs, well behind the 6 year $108M ($18M AAV) contract the Cowboys handed to 33 year old Tony Romo that year. Meanwhile in Green Bay, a 29-year-old Aaron Rodgers penned a 5 year, $110M contract extension with a whopping $54M guaranteed, and a $22M AAV.
Brady would play out 2013 & 2014 on this deal, throwing for 58 TDs, 20 INTs, a 62% completion rate, and a 92.1 rating. Romo actually matched him pound for pound, compiling 65 TDs, 19 INTs, a 66% completion rate, and a 104 rating. While Rodgers raised the bar even higher, producing 55 TDs, 11 INTs, a 66% completion rate and a 110 rating in just 25 games across 2013 & 2014.
Brady earned $27M across those two seasons, compared to $49.15M for Rodgers, & $40M for Romo.
Adjusted Earnings Result: $-11M.
2015 Restructure & 2016 Extension
This is the year things got fun, as a TON of veteran QBs found themselves with new extensions. Ben Roethlisberger (33) signed a 4 year $87.4M deal, Eli Manning (34) signed a 4 year, $84M deal, and Philip Rivers (33) signed a 4 year $83.25M deal - to name a few.
Meanwhile in New England, the Patriots and a 38-year-old Brady agreed on a 3 year $27M extension - $0 signing bonus, $0 fully guaranteed, but the whole deal was guaranteed for injury. On paper, this seemed ridiculous at the time.
But, hindsight ended up being 20/20 with this maneuver, as the Patriots ripped up the final two years of that deal prior to the 2016 season and rewarded 39-year-old Brady with a 2 year $41M new money extension, which included a $28M signing bonus. So, across a three year span (2015-2017), Brady ended up reeling in $42.7M
2015-17 Production & Pay
Rivers: 90 TDs, 44 INTs, 63.2% completion rate, 92.6 rating, $68M earned
Roethlisberger: 78 TDs, 43 INTs, 65% completion rate, 94.4 rating, $65M earned
Brady: 96 TDs, 17INTs, 66% completion rate, 105 rating, $42.7M earned
Adjusted Earnings Result: -$24M
As per usual, the Patriots re-upped Brady after two years on his previous deal, signing the 41-year-old to a 2 year $30M new money extension, including a $10M signing bonus, and attainable $5M incentives. His $15M AAV ranked 21st among QBs this year, and his $15M cash earned just 19th. A slow start to the season wound up forcing Brady to miss out on all of his incentives.
Meanwhile across the league, Aaron Rodgers secured a $33.5M AAV, and $80M guaranteed in Green Bay, while Kirk Cousins locked in $84M fully guaranteed with Minnesota, and Alex Smith, $55M guaranteed in Washington.
2015-17 Production & Pay
Rodgers: 25 TDs, 2 INTs, 62.3% completion rate, 97.6 rating, $66.9M earned
Smith: 10 TDs, 5 INTs, 62.5% completion rate, 85.6 rating, $40M earned
Cousins: 30 TDs, 10 INTs, 70% completion rate, 99.7 rating, $26M earned
Brady: 29 TDs, 11 INTs, 66% completion rate, 97.6 rating, $15M earned
Adjusted Earnings Result: -$29.3M
Actual Versus Estimated Adjusted Career Earnings
Brady’s actual earnings from 2000-2018 come in just north of $212M.
Based on our little experiment here, his earnings could have have pretty easily calculated north of $298M with a proper draft spot, and top market value contracts as he went along.
2019 & Forward
Brady is again set to earn $15M in 2019 based on his extension last season, but with the Patriots once again Super Bowl bound, and his postseason performance as good as any he’s had to date, it stands to reason that another “Brady-like” extension is forthcoming this offseason. While Drew Brees’ 2 year, $50M extension is the likely “value” comparison for a player of Brady’s caliber, a 3 year, $54M contract seems a lot more like something these two sides are likely to wind up with when it’s all said and done.
Quick Concluding Thoughts
Is this good or bad for football? Money has become the driving force for how teams are built in this hard-cap era. Sure, Brady’s life outside of football (family, endorsements, etc) afford him the ability to opt-in to a lesser salary on the field. But It can’t be overstated how much of an advantage this has been for the Patriots organization in terms of salary cap flexibility.
Not only has Brady repeatedly taken under market value, but his contracts are short, succinct, simple, and easily rolled over on a 2-3 year basis. This SHOULD become the norm, even with positions of priority like the Quarterback, EDGE defender, etc…
With a salary cap that continues to rise at a very healthy pace, players like Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, and eventually the Mahomes, Watson, Goff, Wentz grouping won’t need to take considerable salary cuts to make this work. But they also don’t need to lock in 6 year contracts with a plethora of dead cap built into the later years. The philosophy in a cap-friendly window (which much of the league is in) needs to shift to front-loaded, cash & cap heavy contracts, that put dollars in the player’s hands, and keep future cap tables for teams clean, and flexible. Will these players choose the Brady path, or the Rodgers path? Only time will tell.