Tom Brady’s sponsorship deal with a high-end watch company provides another benefit besides a financial windfall.
It can serve as a reminder of how the clock is ticking on the quarterback’s Hall of Fame career.
The Patriots have withstood the test of time under Brady and coach Bill Belichick. New England has posted 13 consecutive seasons with a winning record, including 11 straight with double-digit victories.
But as impressive as that accomplishment is — especially in the free-agency era — New England’s last Super Bowl triumph came a decade ago. Brady will turn 37 Aug. 3, and the Patriots appear to have made plans for his eventual replacement by making Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo a 2014 second-round draft pick.
Even so, midnight hasn’t come quite yet for a player who has enjoyed the Cinderella rise from sixth-round draft pick to three-time Super Bowl champion.
New England enters the 2014 season poised to make another deep postseason run. The biggest reason for optimism is the offseason signing of star cornerback Darrelle Revis following his surprising release by Tampa Bay. Revis is an upgrade over standout free-agent departure Aqib Talib (Denver) because of his shutdown ability against any pass catcher he is assigned, whether aligned on the outside or in the slot. Cornerback Brandon Browner (Seattle) should help improve the secondary as well once he returns after a serving a four-game drug suspension.
The Patriots kept some of their top veterans in the fold, re-signing slot receiver Julian Edelman (105 catches for 1,056 yards and six touchdowns in 2013) and getting defensive lineman and team leader Vince Wilfork to accept a restructured contract. New England also is bullish that tight end Rob Gronkowski can become a difference-maker once again after two injury-marred seasons.
As for Brady, 2013 was a bumpy season largely because he was working with a pass-catching group that lacked experience and big-play ability. But he still quarterbacked New England into the AFC Championship game before the Patriots fell short. Getting the Patriots past that hump and into the Super Bowl remains Brady’s goal before all of the sand drains through the hourglass.