The New England Patriots have opened their campaign to get star quarterback Drew Bledsoe signed to a longterm contract that will keep the former Washington State star with the team through the rest of the decade.
“Drew loves Boston. He wants to stay with the Patriots. The Patriots want him to stay with the Patriots,” says Leigh Steinberg, Bledsoe’s agent, “but as the one representing him, I have to get him the best possible deal I can.”
Owner Bob Kraft met with Steinberg for the first time in person Sunday night.
“What we have to do here,” says Steinberg, who did not put a number on what it might cost, “is get Drew what he would get if he were in the open market, but we also understand we can’t ruin the Patriots as a team to get it done.”
When it’s over, there is little question Bledsoe
will be the highest-paid player in the NFL.
Bledsoe is entering the third year of his contract, which could run six years, but won’t.
When Steinberg signed Bledsoe initially, James B. Orthwein owned the team and his key man, Patrick Forte, worked out a six-year deal. Bledsoe got a $4.5 million bonus up front. Through Steinberg’s maneuvering, he also got a contract that can be reduced to three years, if he starts 10 games this year. Unless he gets hurt, there is no doubt he is going to start 10 games.
Once that happens, half the bonus money - $2.25 million - would drop immediately on the Patriots salary cap, and they don’t want that to happen in the middle of the season, which is why they are pushing to get a new deal done.
The goal will be to keep Bledsoe’s new salary under $3 million a year, so it will not impact negatively on the entire roster.
If a new deal is not done, Bledsoe would become a restricted free agent at the end of the year and another team could get him by giving up first- and third-round draft choices. The Patriots would have the right to match the offer.
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