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Continued talk that Tom Brady might come out of retirement, force his way from Buccaneers

Vincent Frank

When seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady announced his retirement earlier in February after 22 dazzling seasons, it threw a lot of people for a loop.

The 44-year-old Brady was among the best quarterbacks in the NFL this past season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While their campaign ended on a sour note in a loss to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Divisional Playoffs, Tom Terrific continued to play stellar football.

Now, two weeks since Brady announced his retirement, there’s continued talk that the greatest of all-time could end up returning to the football field next season.

NFL Media’s Mike Giardi touched on this recently, indicating that there’s people close to Tom Brady who “don’t believe for a second that he’s done.” The NFL insider also notes that Brady could potentially look to join another team given the Buccaneers’ salary cap issues.

There’s a whole heck of a lot to unpack here. Recent rumors pointed in the direction of Brady potentially looking to be traded to his childhood team, the San Francisco 49ers. Brady has always wanted to finish up his career in his native Northern California.

Given the presence of Trey Lance as San Francisco’s quarterback of the present and future, this seems to be a highly unlikely scenario. As for the Buccaneers and their cap situation, there’s a lot that goes into that thought process.

Related: NFL salary cap situations for the 2022 offseason

Could Tampa Bay Buccaners’ finances be preventing Tom Brady’s return?

Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Buccaneers currently find themselves $6.8 million under the estimated $208 million salary cap for the 2022 NFL season. However, that number is inflated in a big way given the numerous amount of Tampa Bay players set to hit free agency and cash in big time when the market opens next month.

  • Chris Godwin, wide receiver
  • Jason Pierre-Paul, EDGE
  • Ryan Jensen, center
  • Ndamukong Suh, defensive tackle
  • Rob Gronkowski, tight end
  • Leonard Fournette, running back
  • Ronald Jones, running back
  • Richard Sherman, cornerback

Short of restructuring multiple existing contracts, it’s going to be hard for Tampa Bay to re-sign a majority of these players. Under general manager Jason Licht, the team has been in win-now mode since signing Brady ahead of the 2020 season.

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There’s no real outs on expensive contracts relating to the likes of Mike Evans, Shaquil Barrett, Donovan Smith and Lavonte David. In fact, releasing or trading the four would result in a combined $71-plus million dead cap hit. These are the finances Tom Brady could be looking at. That doesn’t even include the bad look it would create by moving off the four above-mentioned franchise cornerstones.

Related: Tom Brady and other NFL players with the longest careers

Despite this, Tampa Bay’s brass is leaving the door wide open for a Brady return in 2022. According to multiple media reports, the team plans to do “whatever is necessary” to convince Brady on a return.

In addition to an unlikely move to San Francisco, there’s not a shortage of teams who would be interested in Tom Brady should he opt to come out of retirement and force his way from Tampa Bay. The Pittsburgh Steelers, New Orleans Saints, Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos and Washington Commanders could all make sense.

For now, it’s all speculation. Brady himself indicated recently that any potential return would be reliant on quarterback situations around the NFL and likely wouldn’t happen until the summer.

“You know, I’m just gonna take things as they come. I think that’s the best way to put it and I don’t think anything. You know, you never say never. At the same time, I know that I feel very good about my decision. I don’t know how I’ll feel six months from now. (Something could) change, it most likely won’t.

Tom Brady on potentially unretiring (February 7, 2022)

Stay tuned.