Commentary

Superstar end games

Updated: March 1, 2013, 2:24 PM ET
By Scoop Jackson | ESPN.com

It's the "feel-good" story of the moment. Tom Brady signs a new deal with the Patriots! Saves the team money! It's the greatest act of selflessness seen in professional team sports! He's more perfect than perfect!

You can hate him now (if you already haven't), just as so many others seem to be doing.

Despite the reported $30 million Brady got in guaranteed bonus money and a three-year extension that ultimately could be worth as much as $57 million over the next five seasons, he created around $15 million of cap space for the Patriots to make other moves over the next two seasons, and he'll be earning half of what he could have demanded.

(The Nobel Prize committee has been notified.)

[+] EnlargeTom Brady
Stew Milne/USA TODAY SportsTom Brady makes another call that shows he's firmly in control.

Brady wrote in an email to WEEI sports radio in Boston, "I really do just want to win, and that has and will continue to be the reason that motivates me and is the biggest factor in my decision-making process."

(The Nobel committee is etching Brady's name next to Alfred Nobel's on the peace prize medal right now.)

Truth is, Brady has set in place a new template for all other cynosure superstar players -- those who have become embedded in the identity of a franchise -- to follow when it comes to seeing the back end of their careers with the franchises they helped build.

He's just initiated what could be the next trend in professional sports.

More than anything he'll say or admit, Brady restructured the deal this way so that his contract wouldn't one day be held against him and so that he could at all costs protect himself from possibly ever going through what Peyton Manning had to endure in leaving Indianapolis.

Brady and his agent wanted to make sure a situation between the QB and the Pats never came to that point where an exorbitant sum owed to him becomes an ultimatum Pats owner Robert Kraft has to make.

This is how the end of Manning's career in Indianapolis influenced the Brady deal. This is also how the new Brady deal may influence future restructuring and/or re-signings of players who may find themselves in similar situations.

It is true that Manning's situation was different from Brady's. An injury caused him to miss all of 2011 and made keeping him an unknown risk. But in the end, it came down to money: whether Colts owner Jim Irsay was willing to pay Manning another $28 million in 2012 when he could possibly get a younger version of Manning -- No. 1 pick Andrew Luck -- for a fifth of the cost.

We all know what decision the Colts made. We all know that it turned out the best for both parties. We also know that deep down, not ending his career in Indianapolis will years from now hurt Peyton more that it will the Colts.

Businesses shed no tears.

For players like Brady and Drew Brees, making reasonable deals that make it difficult for the franchise to cut ties could be smart -- personal -- business.

So let's see who follows. Right now, Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Tony Romo, Joe Flacco, Matthew Stafford and Ben Roethlisberger are up. All want to continue to be the focal points of the teams that they are currently on, the only teams they've played for in the NFL.

(Note: Roethlisberger's contract situation is a little different, because this is the third year in a row that the Steelers have restructured Roethlisberger's contract. He was scheduled to make $11.6 million next season, but the new deal will, like Brady's, save the Steelers several million against the cap.)

Will any players negotiate for less-than-market value during the last remaining years of their future contracts for the unspoken/unsaid assurance that they won't be financial albatrosses or salary cap casualties? Will Brady's recent deal make other elite players realize that once they've made over $100 million during the course of a career, personal stability trumps financial stability most days and twice on Sundays? It might be an almost impossible decision for some players without Brady's years in the league. That includes Flacco, who would get about $20 million in 2013 as the Ravens' franchise player even if he doesn't end up with what could be a record QB contract.

But for those who make the move, it could be smart, borderline brilliant. Not just for face-of-the-franchise quarterbacks or Adrian Peterson-level players in the NFL, but for all crème de la crème players not named LeBron James in team sports.

[+] EnlargePeyton Manning
Joey Foley/Getty ImagesNeither Peyton Manning nor Jim Irsay looked happy when they parted in 2012.

Avoiding the "Chauncey Billups/Ichiro Suzuki circumstance" of being bounced to different teams as Hall of Fame careers wind down because the teams in control of their contracts don't want to take on paying the balance of the remaining amount on the final years of a ballooned contract, is the smart play. It's one that other future HOFers in all sports seriously need to consider when contract talks begin and they are forced to map out their financial futures.

What Brady said in rationalizing why he did what he did is only partially true. As much as his restructuring comes off as so genuinely selfless, it was beautifully selfish. It all but guaranteed that we will never see him in anything but a Patriots jersey for the rest of his playing career.

And even tough Terrell Suggs "guarantees" that 31 other teams in the NFL "hate the New England Patriots," there's something happening here that might be worth looking past the hatred.

So we can stop hating Brady because he's beautiful, has a beautiful wife who pulls in about $50 million annually, can afford to initiate his own "pay cut," and plays the game at a level we've rarely seen.

Instead, we can simply hate Brady now because the move he just made proved that he can change the contract game off the field as much as he can change the football game when he's on it.

Scoop Jackson | email

ESPN.com columnist

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