Ex-Patriots Linebacker Explains How Bill Belichick Negotiates Contracts


There’s really no precedent for Tom Brady’s impending contract negotiations with the New England Patriots.

The veteran quarterback has achieved immense success with New England, leading the franchise to nine Super Bowl appearances and six titles, but he’s also turning 43 years old this summer and is coming off a 2019 season in which he showed signs of regression.

Bill Belichick has a knack for taking emotion out of the equation and moving on from players when necessary. Brady could test the limits of Belichick’s cutthroat approach, though, especially when you consider the strong relationship that exists between Brady and Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

All told, it’s still interesting to hear some perspective on how Belichick typically tackles contract talks, even if each case is unique and Brady’s free agency figures to be particularly complicated. Former Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson, who played 10 seasons with New England (1995-2004), shared a little insight Thursday on NBC Sports Boston’s “Arbella Early Edition.”

Here’s what Johnson said:

When I first was being coached by Bill and had my first kind of issue with my contract, Bill reached out to me personally which usually does not happen. I was like, ‘Woah, OK, I have an agent.’ He was like, ‘Yeah I was going to call him.’ He wanted to gauge my interest and see how I reacted by him calling me.

Bill will nickel and dime. There was a year that I had — I played 15 percent of the plays the year before, and he came to ask me for a pay cut. He said, ‘Well Ted, you only played 15 percent of the plays.’ ‘Yeah, Bill, did you know I broke my foot in Week 1 so I missed the next 10 games?’ He doesn’t care about that stuff. So it is hardball, he doesn’t care, he will use the stats against you, and won’t factor in all the things that went into those poor stats.

He’s not going to blow you away with an offer. He’s going to make you sweat it out and make you think, ‘Do I really want to leave what I’m comfortable with, or stay here and take less than what other people would offer?’

Johnson admits his contract talks with Belichick probably affected his personal relationship with the Patriots coach given the difference in how the two approached the negotiations emotionally. The former defensive standout can’t help but wonder whether Brady will have a similar experience, although, again, it’s difficult to compare Brady’s situation to that of any other player — past or present — when you consider the unique circumstances surrounding his career and his apparent desire to continue playing well into his 40s.

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