At age 42, Brady is set to hit the market as an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his NFL career after the Patriots’ surprise playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans last Saturday. After the game, Brady said it was “pretty unlikely” he would retire from football but would not definitively say that he would return to the Patriots next season.
“My hope and prayer is, number one, he [Brady] play for the Patriots, or number two, he retires,” Kraft told NBC Sports prior to the loss. “He has the freedom to decide what he wants to do and what’s in his own best personal interest.”
Brady has a market value of $34.1 million based on his age, current contract status and statistical production, according to calculations by Spotrac. A contract of that size would put Brady on par with the NFL’s highest-paid players at its most lucrative position, including Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who earns an average annual salary of $35 million, and Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff, who earns an average annual salary of $33.5 million.
Brady’s unparalleled list of on-field accomplishments provides even more leverage than most top-tier quarterbacks would have on the open market. He's won six Super Bowls, three NFL Most Valuable Player awards and more regular-season games than any player in history during his time with the Patriots.
For a team with the necessary salary cap space on the cusp of Super Bowl contention, Brady could likely name his price.
Speculation about Brady’s future in New England persisted throughout the 2019 season. The Patriots star repeatedly dismissed questions about where he could end up. Brady and his wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen, put their Boston-area mansion up for sale late last summer, prompting gossip that they were planning an exit from the team as well.
A top-of-market payday isn’t a guarantee in Brady’s situation. The longtime NFL star has repeatedly taken below-market deals during his career to free up cash for the Patriots to sign other players.
Brady’s willingness to be financially flexible may have saved the Patriots as much as $100 million during his career, according to Andrew Brandt, a former NFL agent and front-office executive for the Green Bay Packers.
“Every QB helps with [salary cap] issues, no downside to that,” Brandt wrote on Twitter. “But Brady took less cash. Every single time.”
While the NFL’s final salary cap for 2020 has yet to be determined and free agency is still weeks away, some 19 teams, including the Patriots, are currently projected to have enough effective cap space to sign Brady.
The pool includes some potential postseason contenders expected to be in the market for a quarterback, including the soon-to-be Las Vegas Raiders and the Los Angeles Chargers.