Tom Brady set to become a free agent after 2022 season with Bucs

Though the quarterback is only under contract for one more year, there currently is no urgency to add another year.
Shortly before quarterback Tom Brady (12) announced he would be returning to the Bucs, he texted receivers Chris Godwin (14) and Mike Evans (13).
Shortly before quarterback Tom Brady (12) announced he would be returning to the Bucs, he texted receivers Chris Godwin (14) and Mike Evans (13). [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published March 21, 2022|Updated March 21, 2022

TAMPA — Twenty minutes before Tom Brady made the announcement that he was ending his retirement, Chris Godwin said he and fellow Bucs wideout Mike Evans received a group text message from the quarterback with the good news.

“It was like, ‘Yo, I want ya’ll to know I’m coming back and I’m excited for another year,’” Godwin said Monday. “And me and Mike, we’re gassed up, we’re like, ‘Yo, what are you talking about you’re coming back? Man, you just retired.’

“But it’s hard to walk away from the game when you’re as dedicated to it as Tom is, so I would say I’m surprised, but I know him and I know what this game means to him. I know how his family goes about it. I’m just happy he’s making the decision he wants to make, and I’m happy he’s coming back and throwing more passes.”

While Brady is back with the Bucs for 2022, that could be all he is committed to. He has one year remaining on his contract and, at the moment, there doesn’t appear to be any urgency on his part to add to that, though the deal could be restructured to create salary-cap space.

Brady has one year left with $27.2 million cash, including a $20.2 million salary-cap figure for 2022, according to Spotrac. It includes an $8.925 million base salary and a $1.4 million roster bonus. It also includes $15 million of signing bonus that was deferred from March 2021 to February 4, 2022.

Chances are, it’s been paid out. Brady counts $24 million against the cap in 2024. The Bucs could extend his deal to reduce that figure, much as they did after 2020. But at present, there doesn’t appear to be any momentum to do so.

General manager Jason Licht was asked Monday if the Bucs plan to add another year to Brady’s deal.

“You know, we’ll get to that when we get to it,” Licht said. “Right now, we’re focused on what we have and what we have to do here in the next few days.”

Remember, the Bucs planned to put Brady on the reserve/retired list sometime after June 1, retaining his rights.

At the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, coach Bruce Arians was asked if the Bucs would allow Brady to go to another team if he wanted to end his retirement and play somewhere other than Tampa Bay.

“Nope, bad business,” Arians said, adding that the Bucs may consider trading his rights for five first-round picks.

So Brady finds himself in much the same situation as he did during his final season in New England, albeit preparing to start the season at age 45.

He currently plans to play for the Bucs in 2022 and, unless something changes, could be a free agent again in 2023.

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Of course, the Bucs are just glad to have Brady back, and Licht said the team had some confidence he would change his mind about retirement.

“You know, there was nothing I could do about it at that point. We had a lot of faith in thinking he might change his mind, that he might come back. But we had to have plans either way,” Licht said.

“Now, when he decided he was going to unretire, we had several conversations, and Bruce was a part of that. There was a sense it could happen, but we didn’t have any definites until later on. Probably around the same time Chris (Godwin) heard and got his text message, I had talked to him, and Bruce and knew he was going to put a statement out. So that was a great day.”

Brady attended a game between Manchester United and Tottenham the day before he ended his retirement. He sat with the Glazer family, which owns both the Bucs and Manchester United. Licht said the trip to England was planned before Brady changed his mind and decided to play, so the timing wasn’t related to his announcement.

“I know that trip had been planned out for quite some time,” Licht said. “Tom’s a planner. He’s very detailed — doesn’t do anything on a whim.”

Licht also pushed back against reports that the relationship between Brady and Arians had soured, saying it has not been a topic of discussion.

“I mean, probably, you’d be surprised we didn’t talk about it much,” Licht said. “You can’t believe everything you hear and see and read. There’s always going to be some friction between people on a staff and players and a coach. It’s just normal. ... It can be healthy.”

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