Contract discussions between the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady escalated Tuesday to the point where a deal could be completed before New England opens its regular season, according to a source close to the situation.
The Boston Herald, citing sources close to the negotiations, reported that the Patriots offered their franchise quarterback a three-year, $58 million contract that could be completed in the next 24 hours. The deal would kick in after this season. He is set to earn $6.5 million this year in the final season of his current deal.
Initially, sources said that the report of an imminent deal was "wrong" and "inaccurate," but later in the day a source said momentum for a new deal was building. Brady's deal is complex and still has details to be worked out, but the signs are encouraging.
Discussions between the two sides have focused on a four-year deal. The previous two contracts that Brady has signed have been for four years, and the expectation is this one also will be for four.
The value of Brady's new contract is expected to be between $18 million and $20 million per season, which means it likely would be valued between $72 million and $80 million.
Brady deflected questions about a potential contract extension Wednesday morning in an interview on Boston sports radio station WEEI.
"I don't want to get into it," Brady said. "For me, it's the same as it's been. I'm trying to find a way to score some touchdowns against the Bengals [in Sunday's season opener]. I didn't spend five minutes yesterday thinking about my contract or future."
Brady added that it's "pretty uncomfortable talking about a contract, because I know how coach [Bill] Belichick feels talking about it, and [owner Robert] Kraft does, and Jonathan [Kraft] does.
"It's an ordinary Wednesday," he said. "We're getting ready for the Bengals."
Brady would like to finalize the deal this week, before the Patriots open the season Sunday against Cincinnati. This is logical. In the Patriots opener two seasons ago, then Kansas City safety Bernard Pollard rolled into Brady's knee, injuring it and ending the quarterback's season.
"I think everybody on our team would [like to have a new deal in place before the season opener], every coach would. That's not the way things work," Brady told WEEI on Wednesday morning. "I love the Patriots, I love the organization, what Mr. Kraft has done for me and my family over the years, I'm always grateful. To play for coach Belichick, there is no coach I'd rather play for. That's how I felt, that's how I'll feel today, tomorrow, Sunday, the following week, for as long as I ever am playing, and beyond my playing years I'll be grateful for what I have here."
One source said he thought a deal could be done this week, but it would not surprise him if it were next week.
Talks were held over the weekend and intensified throughout the day Tuesday. Talks will continue and both sides are determined to get a deal done.
Belichick was typically tight-lipped when asked to comment on Brady's contract status Tuesday.
"I don't have anything to report on any contracts," he said.
The Indianapolis Colts' Peyton Manning set the contract benchmark for quarterbacks by signing a six-year, $98 million deal in 2004. If the numbers the Herald reported are in the ballpark, Brady would earn $19.3 million per season, outpacing the $16.3 million of Manning. But Manning is in the last year of his deal as well, and the Colts have vowed to make him the highest paid player in the league.
Brady is enjoying a solid training camp and preseason after returning from injury to pass for 4,398 yards and 28 touchdowns last season.
Adam Schefter covers the NFL for ESPN NFL Insider. ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss contributed to this report.