Ask around the league and many execs and coaches will tell you one of the underrated factors in the Patriots' double dynasties was Tom Brady never truly got paid what he was worth.
He was far from a Patrick Mahomes or an Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson — the most recent quarterbacks to become the highest-paid players in the league, which has or will have a negative trickle-down effect on the roster. After all, there is a hard salary cap and it is real — now or later your team will pay a price.
So having Brady, the best player in the league, playing for less than his worth — especially his final seasons when Belichick put the screws to his aging passer (ask Brady how he feels about previously playing ball with the team now) — was an asset for the Patriots.
Not only could it give the Patriots an additional veteran player or two a year (three or four in later years), but the team could and did use Brady's salary as a negotiating ploy with other players. "If Tom isn't getting top of the market, why should your guy?" the team often told agents for players.
Brady's contract helped with the cap, and it helped the team remain competitive as the extra money was used to paper over Belichick's increased struggles in the draft.
Once Brady left, you wondered if they would ever find a quarterback who would give them that advantage again. Certainly a second-year player like Jarrett Stidham would give them great cost control for another three or four years. And if he ended up being another franchise quarterback, perhaps they could talk him into taking a similar contract path. "Taking less won Tom six Super Bowl titles and three MVPs ... would you like that for your career?"
Then the team stumbled onto Newton and his league-minimum contract, and it took the Brady Cap Plan to a whole other level.
But if the Patriots have any plans for adding other players, they may have just boxed themselves into a corner that could affect their ability to add other veteran players.
"Basically, yes they have," said one veteran agent.