Tom Brady and the Patriots are headed toward an awkward, and potentially final, chapter

tom bradySteve Luciano/AP

  • Tom Brady will be a free agent at the end of the season.
  • According to a report, Brady wanted a multi-year contract extension, but the New England Patriots only offered him more money this year.
  • Brady may not have a strong 2019 season because of his age and lesser supporting cast, which could lead to the Patriots asking him to take a pay cut next year.
  • It's unclear where the two sides would go from there, but it could lead to eventual separation.
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Tom Brady and the New England Patriots didn't so much come to a contract resolution this August as they put it off for another few months.

Brady entered training camp in the final year of his deal. The two sides reportedly agreed on a two-year, $70 million extension that also came with an $8 million raise this season.

However, as details trickled out, it became clear, this new deal just put a band-aid on this season. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported that the final two years of Brady's contract automatically void in March 2020. The deal also doesn't allow the Patriots to use the franchise tag on Brady next season. It means Brady will be a free agent in 2020.

The agreement gives Brady an $8 million raise this season, making him the sixth highest-paid quarterback. Where it leaves the two sides going into next season is unclear.

Tom Curran of NBC Sports Boston pulled back the curtain on the negotiations on his podcast "Quick Slants."

According to Curran, Brady wanted a multi-year deal that would take him to age 43 or 44. Brady has several times said he desires to play until he's 45. The Patriots did not want to go that long on a deal, according to Curran, and instead gave Brady even more money this season, but with more stringent incentives. Brady reportedly agreed to the deal, but with the stipulation that the Patriots could not franchise-tag him next offseason. The Patriots balked, according to Curran.

According to Curran, "autonomy" became a key for Brady. After two decades of seeing the Patriots run their organization in their best interests, Brady wanted to make sure he could control his future, even if it means losing key players.

As the two sides head into the 2019 season, on paper, things are not shaping up for an easy next contract negotiation.

First, there is Brady's age. At 42, it would not be surprising to see further signs of slippage from Brady. The 2018 season as not his sharpest, despite the team winning the Super Bowl.

tom brady 2019Charles Krupa/AP

There is also Brady's supporting cast. With Rob Gronkowski retiring, Brady has fewer weapons than in seasons past. The Patriots will need rookie receivers in N'Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers or second-year running back Sony Michel to make a leap to give Brady more support.

As Curran noted, because of those factors, it's not hard to imagine that Brady won't post a statistically better season than 2018.

When Brady and the Patriots then negotiate his next contract, he may ask for a raise over his $23 million -Brady, after all, has been underpaid for much of his career, for the team's benefit. If he doesn't top his 2018 season, the Patriots may ask him for a pay cut. Curran doesn't think Brady would be "amenable" to that.

From there, Curran said there might be three options - Brady could retire, he could hit free agency to find his market value or the Patriots could decide to move on via trade.

Retiring doesn't sound like it is in Brady's plans. On his weekly interview on WEEI on Monday, he reiterated a desire to continue playing into his 40s.

Brady also addressed he and his wife, Gisele Bündchen, putting their Massachusetts home up for sale. Brady said not to look at it as some indication of his plans.

Whether Brady and the Patriots would decide to move on from one another is unclear. Brady has said he wants to remain with the Patriots and that he has a great relationship owner Robert Kraft and head coach Bill Belichick.

"This is where I want to be. This is the team I want to be a part of, and leading. I'm really excited about doing that," Brady said on the "Greg Hill Show" on WEEI.

tom brady bill belichickChris Jackson/AP

However, past rumors and reports have indicated that Brady has not always been so happy in New England. In 2018, ESPN's Ian O'Connor reported that Brady, at one point, would have "divorced" Belichick if he could, due to unhappiness with the culture around the Patriots.

Read more: Tom Brady reportedly considered ending his time with the Patriots this offseason and would 'divorce' Bill Belichick if he could

Of course, Brady and Belichick have maintained a working relationship effective enough to make four of the last five Super Bowls, winning three of them.

Some in the NFL world believe the relationship between Brady and Kraft is too strong for the Patriots to allow Brady to leave. However, as Curran noted, Kraft is also a shrewd businessman. Kraft didn't intervene this offseason to sign Brady to a multi-year contract. If Brady shows further signs of slippage in 2019, the Patriots could be willing to part ways.

"I think what this is about is this season and dealing with this year," Brady said. "Beyond this year, whether it's signing five more years, or signing a franchise tag, or not playing, none of those things needed to be decided this year. I'm just focused on this season and being in the right mental, emotional frame of mind to go out there and perform at the highest level."

Throughout the 2019 season, barring something unexpected, the situation will be brewing.

Curran said of Brady and the Patriots: "They're all eyeing each other, warily, as they go about their business with a smile."

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