Tom Brady says he will return to NFL, Buccaneers
By Kevin Draper
After less than six weeks of retirement, it appears that Tom Brady is back.
Brady, the 44-year-old quarterback who has won the Super Bowl seven times, wrote on his social media accounts Sunday evening that he would return to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to play his 23rd NFL season.
“These past two months I’ve realized my place is still on the field and not in the stands,” Brady wrote.
Brady had announced his retirement in early February, saying he wasn’t going to make the “competitive commitment” to football anymore. But in the days since, he has made a number of ambiguous comments about his future. On Saturday, he attended a soccer match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. United is owned by the Glazer family, which also owns the Buccaneers. The United star Cristiano Ronaldo was seen in a video asking Brady, “You’re finished, right?”
It wasn’t clear from the video how Brady responded to Ronaldo, but his posts to Twitter and Instagram on Sunday seemed to be a resounding no.
Brady’s agent, Don Yee, did not respond to requests for comment.
In a statement, general manager Jason Licht said the organization was “thrilled” about the quarterback’s return, adding that he and coach Bruce Arians had multiple conversations in which Brady intimated there was a “realistic chance” he would return.
The Buccaneers had left open the possibility that Brady could return all along. After the team’s playoff exit in January, Arians made it clear that any decision about retirement belonged to Brady, but that the team wanted him back. “Whenever Tom wants to come back, he’s back,” Arians said this month at the scouting combine. “If Tom wants to come back, we’ll have plenty of money for him.”
The Buccaneers lost in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs to the Los Angeles Rams, 30-27, on a last-second field goal, after being down by as many as 24 points. Facing an offseason in which 24 players could become unrestricted free agents, the team placed the franchise tag on receiver Chris Godwin, one of Brady’s favorite targets out of the lot, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament in December.
Without Godwin and Antonio Brown, whom the team cut in January, and with injuries to the defensive secondary, the Buccaneers (13-4) struggled to mount a defense of their 2020 championship season.
Brady’s quick reversal puts the Buccaneers in a much better position Monday, when teams can begin talking to and signing free agents. They will not have to search for a new starting quarterback, and they will be able to tell their own free agents — including key contributors such as Rob Gronkowski and Ndamukong Suh — as well as other potential signings that the team will still be helmed by one of the league’s best quarterbacks.
Even with Brady’s return, the team has holes to fill in free agency and the draft.
Any team with Brady will be competitive, but Licht will have to be creative in constructing a roster capable of another Super Bowl appearance. The team is $3 million over the salary cap, according to the salary website Spotrac.
Brady is set to earn $25 million next season, although only about $20 million of that will count against the team’s salary cap. But during his career he reworked his contract a number of times to help his teams sign key players, and it is possible his return to the Buccaneers includes a new contract that lessens his burden on the cap.
Brady’s “unretirement” capped a period of quarterback moves that is likely to shape the NFL next season. Aaron Rodgers, the league’s reigning most valuable player, re-signed with the Green Bay Packers, while the Seattle Seahawks plan to trade Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos for a package that includes draft picks.
Deshaun Watson, who did not play for the Houston Texans last season while dealing with 22 lawsuits that accuse him of sexual misconduct, will not be criminally charged in Houston after a grand jury declined to indict him Friday, although the lawsuits remain active. There are reports some teams are angling to sign him.
Brady’s initial retirement came after days of speculation that he would do so, spurred by an ESPN report breaking the news, a report that was quickly followed by attempts to dispel it from those around him, insisting that Brady was still making up his mind. When he finally did retire, days later, he called the future “exciting” and said he would work on the companies he owned, as well as spend time with his wife, Gisele Bündchen, and their children.
The New England Patriots, the team for which he played his first 20 seasons, and the Buccaneers released tribute videos after he announced his retirement. Hosannas poured in from across the NFL and beyond to laud his career accomplishments and final statistics, figuratively etched in stone, which provided the argument that Brady was the greatest professional football player ever.
Now he will have at least one more season to persuade those who somehow were not yet convinced.