Tom Brady has famously structured his contract to help the New England Patriots build a championship-caliber roster, but he always gets paid in the end. Brady is commanding $29 million in 2016 alone as part of a deal that qualifies as a win-win for player and organization. That big payout in the absence of new deals for a few notable teammates was a leading reason Brady was my choice for the Patriot with the most player-friendly contract.
Ten quarterbacks of varying standing represent their teams on my 32-player list (one player per team). These QBs are scheduled to earn nearly $190 million in 2016 even though some have yet to win starting jobs or distinguish themselves as consistently productive. Contracts for the 10 quarterbacks and 22 non-quarterbacks qualified for inclusion on the player-friendly list in several ways. Some deals were player-friendly from the beginning. Others became player-friendly when career trajectories changed.
Brady's case is interesting. Although it's reasonable to say Brady has been underpaid since signing a team-friendly extension three years ago, his $29 million payout in 2016 is a handsome reward heading into his age-39 season. It means he will have earned more than $74 million since 2013, the year Brady and Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers signed extensions. Rodgers commanded the richer deal, but his $73.4 million payout from 2013 to 2016 falls just short of what Brady will have gotten over the same span. Rodgers' deal is scheduled to pull ahead again in 2017, but Brady will enter his age-41 season in 2018 before the Patriots could realistically get out of this contract. That is sensational for any quarterback.
Larry Fitzgerald, WR
Fitzgerald has repeatedly parlayed his rich rookie deal into player-friendly extensions as the Cardinals sought relief under the salary cap. His resurgence on the field has made the arrangement work for Arizona. Fitzgerald has a guaranteed $11 million salary for 2016. His deal counts nearly $16 million against the cap.