BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — You've probably heard March 18 as the date to circle on your calendar when it comes to Brady Watch 2020. That's because at 4 p.m. that afternoon, the NFL's 2020 league year begins, which impacts teams in a number of different ways.
For the Patriots, they will most likely need an answer from Tom Brady at that time because it will drastically alter how they build the rest of their team for next season.
When Brady restructured his contract back in August, it had a few effects on how the quarterback would be paid. For starters, he received a pay bump for the 2019 season, with the agreement being announced as a multi-year deal—but the remaining years would essentially be "ghost years" allowing the Patriots to spread out the cap charge over multiple years instead of taking it all on in 2019.
That means Brady would be a free agent in 2020, the last part of the contract being that New England could not place the "Franchise Tag" on him. This would allow him to have complete control over where he plays in the future.
If Brady is not on the roster at 4 p.m. on March 18, a $13.5 million cap hit will go on the Patriots' books for Brady whether he plays a game for them next season or not. If he signs with the Pats after that date, the leftover cap hit will be added to whatever contract he agrees to. For example, if he signs a contract for $25 million after March 18, he would count $38.5 million on the books.
Per sources, the Patriots are expected to have around $29 million in cap space for 2020, so that would put New England in a major bind when it comes to constructing the rest of their roster.
If TB12 signs before that date, that remaining cap charge can be spread out over multiple years ($6.75 million in 2020 and 2021), giving the Patriots more flexibility.
ESPN Patriots Insider Mike Reiss says that there have been no contract talks or negotiations yet between Brady and the Patriots, though things are expected to heat up in the coming weeks.
Former teammate and current ESPN Analyst Tedy Bruschi believes that Brady will test the market and see what offers are out there.
This is where March 16 at 4 p.m. comes into play. That is when the NFL's "legal tampering" period begins, allowing would-be free agents to meet and discuss contracts with other teams and even reach agreements before the league year starts.
If Bruschi is correct, that would set up a wild 48 hours where Brady could meet with other clubs, decide if there is a better fit for him outside of Foxborough, and potentially re-sign with New England before the new league year begins, giving the Patriots that extra bit of cap flexibility to acquire more talent.
Bruschi also notes that while Brady himself can't meet with other teams until March 16, that doesn't mean Brady's agent or "people" can't engage in some "talk behind-the-scenes" with other teams to give the quarterback an idea of what the market for his services will look like.
Mike Reiss went into further detail of the situation on Tuesday.
Important Brady Watch dates and numbers:
4 p.m. March 16: NFL's "legal tampering" period begins
4 p.m. March 18: 2020 NFL League Year starts, players can sign contracts with new teams
$29 million: Approximate amount of salary cap space New England has for 2020
$13.5 million: Cap charge on New England's books if Tom Brady is not on the roster at the start of the new league year
$6.75 million: Rollover cap charge added on to Brady's new contract if he signs with New England before 3/18
WBZ NewsRadio's Dan Watkins (@DanWatkinsRadio) reports