Robert Kraft Says He Suggested Tom Brady Extension to Avoid Dealing With Joe Montana, Peyton Manning Ending


Tom Brady Robert KraftIn the NFL, and all pro sports, it’s just business. Players say that aloud regularly, and owners and general managers affirm it with paychecks and salary cap moves.

Except, maybe, sometimes, it’s not all business — or, it can be the kind of business that lines up pretty well with what the fans like, too.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft took less of a business line as he explained how he and the Patriots worked out a three-year, $27 million contract extension with Tom Brady last week. The deal benefits both Brady and the team financially but more importantly keeps Brady with the Patriots until he’s 40 years old. While the business interests of the team and the Hall of Fame-bound quarterback were certainly part of the mix, Kraft said a different side of him was the impetus for suggesting the deal.

“I was probably wearing my fan hat as much as anything else,” Kraft told Peter King of Sports Illustrated, noting that he had thought about such a deal for three or four years. “I just didn’t want to ever see this become like Joe Montana leaving San Francisco, Emmitt Smith leaving Dallas, Brett Favre leaving Green Bay, Peyton Manning leaving Indianapolis. If Tom Brady played out his current contract and left us, there was no doubt in my mind that someone out there would pay him top dollar, and they should, for his ability, his leadership and his unselfishness. I was just trying to stay ahead of the curve.”

Kraft said he and Brady had talked about some kind of deal “off and on for maybe 18 months,” with Kraft stressing that he wanted Brady to end his career as a Patriot, but that the team didn’t want to spend nearly a fifth of its cap space on a contract for the quarterback. With other elite quarterbacks taking $20 million a year, a big move would have to be made to keep Brady around but leave the Patriots flexible enough to spend on the rest of the team.

The wheels finally went in motion about five weeks ago, Kraft told King. Brady and Kraft hopped on a six-hour plane ride, and Kraft gave Brady a sketch of the deal. While Brady took some time after that to decide, the main idea behind the extension — that Brady would get more guaranteed money and be assured a spot for several years, while his lower year-by-year rate would help the team — was put in place.

Now, Brady is locked in until he’s 40, and the team has its cap space — and some peace of mind.

“I am glad we are able to take negotiations out of this relationship for the next five years,” Kraft said. “… I credit Tom for doing the right thing and thinking outside the box. That’s what we’re trying to do as an organization, and certainly what Bill Belichick tries to do as a coach. If you don’t have a good coach and a quarterback, you don’t have much of a chance to win. We are fortunate that we have both who are way above par. Tom is everything that we want. In life, the best deals are the deals that are good for both sides.”

Kraft said it was especially important that the team got the deal done before free agency opened, although he denied that Brady made any special requests (such as for the team to re-sign Wes Welker) by agreeing to the extension. Kraft also batted down criticism that the extension was just a stopgap until 2015, when the team and Brady would renegotiate again and give Brady more money.

This deal, after all, was pretty good business — and not so bad for those wearing their fan caps, either.

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