Photo: Billie Weiss (Getty)

When the news first broke of Tom Brady’s new Patriots contract, it was reported as a two-year extension, running through 2021, at $70 million. After years and years of having to write the same blog, I’m as surprised as you are that scoopsters didn’t wait for the details of the contract to see what it actually meant. Now we know, and so we know that—as per usual—this means a raise for Brady, more cap space for the Pats, and doesn’t actually mean anything beyond the upcoming season.

Brady was set to make $15 million in 2019 on his old deal, and now he’s going to make $23 million. The mechanisms for this are more complicated than you need to know or I need to understand, but because so much of his salary will now be in the form of a signing bonus on this “new” contract, the Patriots will receive $5.5 million in salary cap relief for 2019.

Brady’s cap hits will still come in the following two seasons (unless they renegotiate another contract before then). His extremely high salaries for those years, however, will not:

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Ah yes, the automatically voiding contract. It’s exactly what it sounds like—a contract that self-destructs—and teams have been increasingly using it in recent years because it allows them to spread out cap hits over multiple seasons, even if those multiple seasons aren’t real. In Brady’s case, that means that the two years of the “two-year extension” don’t actually exist, but the Patriots get cap relief now as if they will.

Self-voiding contracts are something of a loophole, and may very well be negotiated out of the next CBA because in general they’re used against players, not in concert with them as is the case here, but they’re totally and indisputably legal. Drew Brees is on basically the same exact contract.

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So what does this mean for the Patriots and for Brady in 2020, when he’ll be 43 years old? Absolutely nothing, at least for now. Before this “extension” he was going to be a free agent and/or have to renegotiate his deal for next season, and that’s still the case. If the wheels suddenly come off and New England decides it’s time to move on, they’ll be able to do that. If Brady wants to keep playing in the NFL—and not necessarily with the Patriots—he’ll be free to negotiate a new deal, and the Pats wouldn’t be able to franchise tag him. Basically, Brady is year-to-year. Same as it’s been for a decade.