Tom Brady has left Tampa Bay. He leaves behind a championship legacy – along with a $35.1 million cap for 2023.
That’s not money the Bucs owe Brady. It’s cash that the Buccaneers have paid before, using the available devices to kick the can in years to come.
As for Brady’s deal, the chickens are now coming home to roost. And the Bucs are screwed.
Yes, they got what they wanted and needed from Brady. A Super Bowl championship. Two years of maximum asses in the seats (the first season didn’t include fans due to the pandemic). Sales of sweaters and other merchandise.
But now at an estimated $55 million over the cap, the Bucs need one last favor from Brady. They need him to sign a contract for 2023, for the minimum salary of $1.1165 million. And then they have to process his pension after June 1.
Such a contract would lower Brady’s limit to $11.941 million for 2023. Retirement after June 1 would result in $10.776 million in dead money for 2023, and it would push $24.328 million in dead money into 2024.
For Brady, this would stop him from joining another team, if he changes his mind about playing. Even though he may now think he will never play again, he may change his mind.
Signing a new contract would make it much more difficult. For starters, he would be under contract with the Bucs until they put him on the retirement list in June. After that, he would remain on the retiree list until the Buccaneers release or trade his rights.
After the trade deadline, Brady would have to pass waivers after being released from the reserve retiree list.
So it’s in Brady’s best interest to become a free agent. That would give him the flexibility to do what he wants without complications or restrictions. But it’s in the best interest of the team that Brady commits to the Bucs on paper.
If Brady does the Bucs a contractual favor, it must be done before his current contract expires in mid-March. If he goes through with it, it’s the clearest indication that he really has no interest in joining another team.
That said, he could also re-sign in Tampa with the express understanding that if he decides to play again, the Bucs will immediately release his rights. But again, it should be done before the trade deadline, to avoid passing waivers.
Yes, Brady says it’s done for good. But people change their minds. Who knows how he will feel in July or August or September? He probably doesn’t even know.