Key contract notes heading into Week 17.
Quarterback Tom Brady: Brady signed an extension through 2017 back during the 2013 offseason, which includes base salaries of $7 million, $8 million and $9 million over the next three years, respectively. At the moment of signing the deal, those figures were guaranteed for injury only, meaning that in the event Brady suffered an injury that prevented him from continuing his career or the Patriots released him for an injury reason, he would still receive that money. On Saturday at 4 p.m. EST, those salaries become fully guaranteed. In a league where quarterbacks are exceedingly difficult to find and there are several cases of a quarterback whose play on the field does not meet his salary, Brady’s pact – by almost any measure – qualifies as one of the best in the league.
Offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer: As ESPNBoston.com reported earlier this season, the Patriots re-tooled Vollmer’s playing-time incentives, lowering the requisite percentage of snaps played to earn up to $2 million. If Vollmer plays more than 70 percent of the offensive snaps this season, he earns $1 million; if he plays more than 80 percent of the snaps, he makes $2 million (previously, the two barometers were 80 and 90 percent). If Vollmer surpasses the 70 percent threshold, it also triggers a $1 million roster bonus due on the third day of the 2015 league year. He's on target to hit the 80-percent mark.
Wide receiver Julian Edelman: The Patriots built in a $500,000 bonus for Edelman for each of the four years of his contract signed this past offseason. For 2014, there are four ways he can earn that bonus: 1,057 receiving yards; 70 receptions plus seven touchdowns; 80 receptions plus 13 regular season wins; 80 receptions plus a Super Bowl appearance. Edelman’s status (thigh/concussion) for Week 17 is still unknown, but because he has already surpassed the 80-reception threshold, a win on Sunday would result in a pay-day for Edelman. If he does play, he needs just 85 receiving yards to earn the bonus, which would render the outcome of the game moot as it relates to his contract.
Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork: Wilfork restructured and extended his deal this offseason, and the Patriots have until the final day of the 2014 league year (which actually extends into March of 2015), to decide whether or not to exercise the two-year option for 2015-2016. As it relates to 2014, Wilfork has $3 million available in incentives. If he plays at least 70 percent of the defensive snaps, Wilfork earns $2 million. If he plays at least 70 percent of the defensive snaps and the team reaches the divisional round of the playoffs, Wilfork earns $2.5 million (note: the Patriots clinched a first-round bye and thus will play in the divisional round). If Wilfork plays at least 70 percent of the defensive snaps and the team finishes in the top 10 in scoring defense, he earns another $500,000. Entering Week 17, the Patriots are eighth in scoring defense at 19.7 points per game. The 11th-ranked 49ers allow 21.5 points per game. Our tabulations have Wilfork at 74.4 percent of the defensive snaps played this season.
Note: Kicker Stephen Gostkowski ($50,000) and special teamer Matthew Slater ($300,000) have already earned bonuses for reaching the Pro Bowl.
FOXBORO — It’s Jimmy time.
Rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo figures to garner the most playing time of his young career tomorrow when the Patriots host the Bills in a regular-season finale that has no bearing on the standings. Based on the way Garoppolo has won over his teammates in the past few months, his on-field cameo is expected to yield positive results.
“Jimmy is going to be (expletive) cold-blooded,” one player passionately said this week.
Garoppolo already has completed 9-of-10 passes for 92 yards and one touchdown this season in mop-up duty against the Chiefs and Bears, and the second-round pick has played 34 total snaps in five games. There is a legitimate chance for him to double his playing time tomorrow, and his teammates are excited to see what he can put on the field.
“You can tell he definitely has the respect of the guys,” said practice squad quarterback Garrett Gilbert, who has leaned heavily on Garoppolo during his first 10 days with the team. “He has a lot of knowledge. Just for having been here for one year, you can tell he has been studying and learning from Tom (Brady). You can tell he has learned a lot about the game of football from a scheming standpoint and an X’s and O’s standpoint. In the film room, he is really ahead of the curve in terms of his knowledge of defenses. That’s stuff we didn’t do in college. For him to learn from Tom and get that knowledge of defenses, it’s impressive.”
Garoppolo really began to win over his teammates in the preseason opener against the ********, as he unexpectedly transformed from a kid who legitimately was struggling to complete more than one or two passes during team drills at practice into a quarterback who found his comfort zone in a game situation. Garoppolo’s teammates recognized his nervousness disappeared at that point, and he began to practice like a completely different player, which ultimately led to the Pats’ decision to trade Ryan Mallett.
Garoppolo has drawn impressive reviews for his moxie behind the scenes since the first day he walked in the building, and he drove it home during the rookie skits when he impersonated fiery special teams coordinator Scott O’Brien with an expletive-laced skit that caused the auditorium to erupt in laughter. Every player polled this week said Garoppolo has a very cool, likable personality.
Of course, being popular doesn’t mean anything if the 23-year-old isn’t producing results. His ability to run an efficient scout team offense while also learning the Patriots’ playbook has benefited all involved, and he is fearless at practice. He’ll challenge cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner with regularity, and he has beaten both for touchdown passes.
“Jimmy is trying to go for the throat when we’re out there on scout team,” wide receiver Brian Tyms said. “He’ll throw it. He’s not just going through the motions. He is trying to complete passes, make plays, make the defense look bad. He is really good, especially for a rookie. Out of all the rookie quarterbacks I’ve been around, he is the best one I’ve seen with my own eyes and played with. It’s not only just his play but his character. I’ve been with some rookie quarterbacks where they get the starting role and talk down to you, and if you mess up, it’s your fault. Jimmy will say, ‘It’s my fault.’ It’s the little stuff like that that builds the trusting relationship.”
As a result, when Garoppolo speaks, everyone shuts up and listens, whether it’s in the huddle or during his one-on-one meetings with teammates. Garoppolo likes to set up those meetings to gain more face time, help others with the offense or pick their brains for his own benefit. He is also a big-time note taker, and his teammates respect his effort in the classroom.
“He is eager to learn,” running back Jonas Gray said. “He is always taking a bunch of notes.”
Garoppolo admitted it was challenging to learn the playbook while preparing to run the scout team at the same time, but he set up a detailed schedule to get it done. Again, the diligence came into play.
“It took a little while to balance it out, but that’s my job,” Garoppolo said. “I like to set a schedule because you want to get in a routine throughout the season. Every day, not make it the same, but be as consistent as you can. If you do that, it’s how you become a good player.”
Garoppolo apparently had the team laughing at some of his gyrations and play calls while he mimicked Peyton Manning during the Week 9 practices. He has also done a sound job of adding some mobility to his game when the defense needed to prepare for someone like Andrew Luck, Geno Smith or Ryan Tannehill.
“That makes us better,” safety Devin McCourty said.
It’s unclear when or if Garoppolo will ever be the Patriots’ full-time starter, but his progress this season suggests he’ll handle that role for someone at some point. The Pats have seen it in practice for months, but those improvements will be publicized to a much greater degree tomorrow.
“When his time comes, he’ll be ready,” Tyms said. “He has come a long way, and he is going to be really good.”
…Veni, Vidi, Vici...
…Veni, Vidi, Vici...