As the Tampa Bay Buccaneers enter the reality that their season is at most three weeks from its conclusion, there is another reality lingering over the organization: the possibility of Tom Brady‘s retirement.
Sources both with the Bucs and close to Brady all recognize the star quarterback remains non-committal to playing beyond this season. Although Brady could decide to play again — he has talked about playing until he was 45, and even beyond — it is currently far from a given, sources tell ESPN.
Brady’s departure is a topic that quietly has come up within the Bucs organization for weeks now, and there has been internal wonder about what the future holds for the seven-time Super Bowl champion and all-time NFL passing leader.
Brady, 44, plans to take time after the season ends — a month or longer — to assess how he feels physically and mentally while also gauging his family’s desires, sources tell ESPN.
To a degree, this is nothing different than any aging veteran after any season. But with Brady, who has one year remaining on his current contract, the thoughts of retirement have become more of a reality than ever before.
Part of Brady’s decision is likely to be situational; how Tampa Bay finishes this season, and how the three-time league MVP feels whenever the season concludes. Some sources believe that if Tampa Bay repeats as Super Bowl champions, it would increase the likelihood that Brady could walk away from the game.
Nothing about the decision has been predetermined, however, and Brady isn’t naive to the questions he’ll soon face, but he also wants nothing to distract him from his day-to-day pursuit of another Super Bowl title.
Sources tell ESPN that Brady is happy in Tampa, while team sources added the marriage couldn’t be going any better from the Bucs’ perspective. Tampa Bay’s coaches and executives are unanimous in their desire to keep moving forward with Brady beyond this season, something they plan to convey to him in emphatic fashion when the season is over.
The Bucs organization would be willing to bend over backward to entice Brady to continue playing, if that’s what he ultimately decides to do.
At times throughout this season, Brady has felt committed to returning in 2022 regardless of the outcome, simply because he feels like he owes it to an organization that doesn’t have a clear quarterback succession plan, sources said. But with a long 2021-22 season nearing its conclusion, Brady now plans to enter the offseason wide open about his future.
Tampa Bay’s current backup quarterbacks are NFL journeyman Blaine Gabbert and 2021 second-round draft pick Kyle Trask.
The length of Brady’s career couldn’t be any more evident than this weekend; he is older than the head coaches of the other three teams that entered the NFC divisional playoff round (Green Bay’s Matt LaFleur is 42, San Francisco’s Kyle Shanahan is 42 and the Los Angeles Rams‘ Sean McVay is 35).
Those close to Brady — and those with the team — are making a clear effort to enjoy and appreciate each game he plays as they recognize that any one of these games ultimately could be his last.
Despite injuries and suspensions to several of the Bucs’ key offensive players this season, Brady appeared in all 17 games this season and led the league with 5,316 passing yards — a career-high — and 43 touchdown passes.