Tom Brady's approach in 2018: Relentless positivity

Exploring hot topics around the New England Patriots in mailbag form:

Bill, with Aaron Rodgers cashing in with a big extension this week, it's timely to revisit Tom Brady's motivation with his contract and how it's been a great bargain to the Patriots. As he has said, the idea of going for every last dollar has never been his primary motivation, and part of his mindset is that if the Patriots have more money to spend on other players, it will help them field a more competitive team. By doing so, it better helps Brady achieve his primary goal of winning. His favorite Super Bowl ring is ... the next one.

One thing has struck me in talking to Brady in the locker room a couple of times over the past two weeks: He is relentlessly positive right now. That reinforced to me that while others can talk about his contract, and what it all means, the only thing that ultimately matters is what Brady thinks about that and other topics. And he seems to be in a great place.

Nothing is ever perfect, of course, but I believe that is at the root of Brady's recent actions of ending a radio interview when the topic turned to his athletic trainer, Alex Guerrero. He's not willing to invite something that could be perceived as negative/controversial into the discussion or his mindset when things are, in his view, extremely positive right now.

While it's a long shot from my view, one thing that 19 years of Bill Belichick's tenure has taught me is that anything is possible. But the reason I call it a longshot is the financial component. The Patriots currently have about $5.3 million in salary-cap space and acquiring Khalil Mack would eat into most (if not all) of that because the reason he's even available is financial considerations. He's going to command a top-of-the-market deal, and there aren't many times the Patriots have done that -- paying top price in both contract and what it takes to acquire the player (e.g. at least a first-round draft pick in this case). That said, there are a few players in the NFL who warrant moving things around, and giving up a significant asset to acquire, and Mack is clearly in that category. So it's fun to think about in that regard, especially when considering that the Patriots have a large volume of draft picks in 2019. When I look at the makeup of the Patriots, and think about their goal of sustained success over time, injecting their young core with more blue-chip talent will be critical, and this hypothetical situation would move them closer to accomplishing that goal. It's just such a long shot.

Cornerback Keion Crossen, the seventh-round draft choice from Western Carolina, was one of the interesting players to project in the 53-man prediction for the Patriots. I like the topic because it highlights something I learned from colleague Field Yates, who has a scouting background: Don't judge solely by on-field results, because a player's traits are just as important. When I see Crossen, I see uncommon traits, some of which showed up with his run support. He is an explosive athlete. Clearly, his traits need to be harnessed for him to become a productive NFL player, and he is far from a finished product, but his situation reminds me of Julian Edelman in 2009. When the Patriots drafted Edelman in the seventh round that year, it was clear he had some uncommon physical traits -- change of direction, quickness, etc. I remember walking with coach Bill Belichick after one practice and him saying something along the lines of, "We don't necessarily know what we're going to do with him, but he'll be on the team." Edelman was transitioning from quarterback to receiver, and there were obviously going to be some growing pains, but the elite traits warranted keeping him around. Crossen is the closest I've seen to that situation since that time. If I'm the Patriots, I'm protecting the asset by giving him a spot on the initial 53-man roster.