Tom Brady Isn’t Being A Team Player

He’s not taking less money. He’s paying for protection.

When news broke that Tom Brady is freeing up $24 million from his current contract to allow the Patriots to sign some valuable free agents in the off-season, plaudits rained down on the UGGS-wearing quarterback like precipitation in a trite Nike commercial. What a teammate! How selfless! What a winner! Comments on Facebook stream across New England are, even now, trending toward the orgiastic, but it’s worth giving Gisele’s husband’s decision a second look.

Upon closer inspection, it’s Brady isn’t actually giving up real money. He’s changing some technicalities in his contract that would allow the Patriots to give more money up-front to free agents they sign this off-season. So, while they might be able to offer the same amount of money to Darelle Revis or Devin McCourty as any other team, the Patriots will have the advantage of cash on hand. If Brady hadn’t restructured his deal, that money would have gone to Brady this year. Instead, it still comes to him, just further down the line.

But all the financial machinations of this contract are secondary to why Brady would want to turn down a chunk of change he can have right now in a league where a single play can end a career. First off, Brady knows that re-signing quality players will give the Patriots a better chance at winning a Super Bowl (even the Pats’ best squads of Pro-Bowl automotons have historically struggled in the championship). But, more importantly, Brady knows better players give him less of a chance of getting his head lopped off by a life-altering hit.

Look at the Patriots big free agents this off-season: Darrelle Revis, Devin McCourty, Nate Solder, and Shane Vereen. All of them play a large part in protecting Brady from the damage a 37-year-old quarterback might receive from a 23-year-old defensive end hyped up on whatever they give NFL players. Solder is an incredibly solid offensive lineman. Sure, Brady has been sacked more than anyone playing in the league right now besides Ben Roethlisberger, but getting a new offensive lineman would require an adjustment period, which could get messy. Vereen, his running back, is an excellent pass-blocker. Revis keeps the Pats ahead, giving Brady an excuse to spend less time in the pocket and more time watching whichever back has caught Belichick’s wandering eye that week grind it out.

Either way you look at it, Brady took less money now for more protection in the immediate future. He will still get all the money he is owed – just later than he expected – and he’ll stay in the league and relevant, which means more free UGGs.

Photos by Joe Robbins / Getty Images