BOSTON The New England Patriots have signed quarterback Tom Brady to a six-year extension worth $60 million, a deal that for the first time brings the two-time Super Bowl MVP's salary in line with his accomplishments.
The extension was reported by ESPN and confirmed to The Associated Press on Saturday night by a football source, speaking on condition of anonymity.
''It's fantastic for the organization, for the city and for the team,'' Brady's backup, Doug Flutie, said while attending the Boston Celtics' playoff game. ''I'd love to see him play his entire career here.''
Brady had two years left on his previous contract that had a total value of about $30 million less than Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning got in signing bonus alone even though Brady has knocked the Colts out of the playoffs in consecutive years.
''I know that when I signed my deal a couple of years ago it was a darn good deal,'' he said at the Super Bowl this year. ''I feel good about the team's commitment and I think they feel good about what I have done for this team and this organization. Hopefully I'll be with the Patriots for a very long time.''
The deal had been in the works for months. But it reportedly hung up over provisions that could inflate Brady's salary cap number to a level that would make it difficult for the Patriots to maintain the roster balance that has helped them win three titles.
''It's a good thing they got it done,'' said Deion Branch, who caught a record-tying 11 passes from Brady in this year's Super Bowl. ''It would be good to keep everyone together. We know he'll be here, though.''
Patriots spokesman Stacey James declined comment, and coach Bill Belichick did not immediately return a call seeking comment. Brady's agent, Don Yee, also could not be reached for comment.
''He just very quietly got it done. Very classy,'' Flutie said. ''I just like the way he goes about his business. I've only been with the team a week and I can tell that Tom's a great leader for the team.''
A sixth-round draft pick and a fourth-stringer as a rookie, Brady took over the Patriots' starting job when Drew Bledsoe was injured in the 2001 season and has led New England to three Super Bowl victories in four years. Brady was the MVP of the 2002 and 2004 Super Bowls, twice leading the Patriots on game-winning drives in the final minutes.
Flutie to Pats fits a trend
The signing of 42-year-old Doug Flutie by New England was much more than a homecoming for the New England favorite. It was yet another example of how much veteran quarterbacks are in demand.
Many NFL teams tend to panic when they don't have a seasoned backup at the position. Sure, a club's chance of winning anything significant just about disappears when the No. 1 signal-caller gets hurt does Indianapolis have a chance without Peyton Manning or Philadelphia minus Donovan McNabb? But coaches and GMs feel they need the comfort zone of the veteran passer they can call on if things get desperate.
So the Giants talked to Vinny Testaverde, who is 41. Brad Johnson, 36, was cut by Tampa Bay and immediately surfaced in Minnesota. Last year, Washington couldn't wait to add Mark Brunell, then a 33.
Jeff Blake, Jim Miller, even Jeff George keep finding jobs.
''He's a great person, he knows our offense and he'll be a real nice addition to our football team,'' Vikings vice president of football operations Rob Brzezinski said when Johnson signed in March. ''He's also a great presence in the locker room.''
And that really is the key. Having a quarterback who has been through the NFL wringer and is willing to provide guidance, support and even some cheerleading has made the older QBs a hot commodity.
''I'm excited about being in the atmosphere of having a guy that he's a definite No. 1 and has proven himself time and time again,'' Flutie said. ''I don't know if I'll be a No. 2 or No. 3 or what I'm going to wind up doing. Hopefully I can be a sounding board for him and be there to help him out and be a security blanket for the team, as much as having a veteran backup.''
THE MIGHTY GARCIA: Aaron Garcia never really has gotten an opportunity in an NFL training camp, so he's become a star in Arena Football.
Last weekend, Garcia surpassed 700 touchdown passes when he led the New York Dragons to a 65-57 victory over the Dallas Desperados. He found the end zone five times in that game, reaching 700 on a 37-yard pass to former Jets receiver Kevin Swayne.
While the AFL is pro football's equivalent of a constant fast break, Garcia should be commended for his achievement.
Garcia, 34, is the son of a football coach. At 6-foot-1, he supposedly hasn't had the ''measurables'' to make it in the NFL.
Right. And Kurt Warner didn't have what it takes, either.
Garcia's best shot at the NFL came with the 49ers three years ago, when he was in San Francisco's minicamp. But he didn't stick.
He has played in five AFL cities and, coincidentally, was one of Warner's replacements with the Iowa Barnstormers. He'd just like the same chance Warner eventually got to display his skills in the NFL.
EARLY CHALLENGES: Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden insists there is more to a rookie's transition to the NFL than learning his new team's plays.
''Forget about learning your new offense,'' Gruden said, referring to top draft pick Carnell Williams, the Cadillac running back from Auburn. ''How about learning the opponent's defense and the nature of blitzes? The specialization of pro football nowadays is just incredible. You've got to familiarize yourself with not only what the protection is, but what your assignment is against a blitz of this nature. The audibles, the changes of strategy during the game.
''All those things will impact him and we're going to try to put him in as many tough situations as we can to get him game ready.''
Despite all those challenges and barring a long holdout or injuries look for Williams to be a starter for the Buccaneers' opener at Minnesota. Also look for him to be a focal point of the offense.
''That's one thing that we did notice about him at the Senior Bowl,'' Gruden said. ''He's a quick study. You show it to him once or twice and for the most part he has it. That's how a lot of the great players are.''
BIG VOID: There's a little more room and a lot less noise in the Bills' defensive huddle after hulking tackle Pat Williams' free-agent departure.
''We were joking about it, the huddle was much quieter,'' linebacker Takeo Spikes said. ''Pat always brought this sense of personality to the huddle. But he's gone.''
Williams was a four-year starter with Buffalo, then signed with Minnesota in March.
As much as Spikes will miss the outgoing run-stuffing tackle, he's confident backup Ron Edwards is ready to step in.
''This is something he's been waiting on ever since last year,'' Spikes said. ''I know at times last year he was frustrated because he didn't play as much. ... And I told him, 'It's yours now. What are you going to do with it full time?' So he's accepting the challenge.''
Edwards is a four-year veteran who had one start in 16 appearances and was credited with 15 tackles and four sacks last season. Edwards started 16 games in 2002 before losing his job when the team signed free agent Sam Adams.
The Bills are also high on 2004 third-round pick Tim Anderson, who dressed for only four games last season.
SCHEDULE NOTABLES: Some of the more interesting aspects of the 2005 NFL schedule:
The Giants open at home to Arizona, against last year's starting quarterback, Kurt Warner. They finish Dec. 31 at Oakland and their previous starter, Kerry Collins.
Arizona would have had three straight games in Sun Devil Stadium Oct. 2 vs. San Francisco, Oct. 9 against Carolina and Oct. 23 vs. Tennessee, with a bye in between. But the ''home'' game with the 49ers will be played in Mexico City.
For a team that finished 5-11 in 2004, the Raiders sure make a lot of prime-time appearances. They open the season at New England in the NFL's Thursday night kickoff, then play on Sunday night at home against Kansas City, have another Sunday nighter in San Diego on Dec. 4, then finish the schedule hosting the Giants on New Year's Eve.
The Super Bowl champion Patriots also have four prime-time games, as do the NFC champion Eagles.
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