Brady signed a two-year contract with Tampa Bay last year, after two extraordinarily successful decades with the New England Patriots. He delivered everything for which the Bucs could have hoped in 2020, including 40 touchdown passes, an 11-5 regular season record and the second NFL championship in franchise history.
Suddenly, though, Brady is entering the final year of his contract, and his effective play isn’t the only reason Tampa Bay might want to extend it. The team does not have much salary cap space with which to work, and pushing some of Brady’s guaranteed money into future years could help the Bucs load up for a run at a repeat title.
Claiming Wednesday that both he and Coach Bruce Arians have a “great relationship” with Brady and his agents, Tampa Bay GM Jason Licht told reporters, “We thought Tom played incredibly well this year, along with the entire team, and we would love to have Tom play here — and I can speak for Bruce, I think — as long as he continues to want to play.”
“If that comes to fruition at some point,” Licht said of a possible extension, “then we’d be elated.”
Under normal circumstances, a 43-year-old quarterback who just won the Super Bowl for the seventh time in his career, proving along the way that he could do it without his old team, might strongly consider retiring at that point and going out on top. But there has never been anything normal about Brady’s career, which has seen him go from an unheralded sixth-round pick to steadily vanquishing any doubts that he is the greatest quarterback of all time.
“Yeah, we’re coming back,” Brady happily proclaimed from an on-field podium immediately following the Super Bowl win. “You already know that.”
At a news conference before the Super Bowl, Brady said he would “definitely consider” playing beyond age 45.
“It has to be 100 percent commitment from myself to keep doing it,” he said then. “I’ve been very fortunate, like I said, over the years. … You take different hits. You, over the course of the year, deal with different bumps and bruises, different injuries and so forth. It’s just going to be me continuing to make that commitment to making it part of my year-round process to play football and continue my career.”
Shortly after the victory over the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs, Brady underwent a knee procedure, and Arians said Wednesday his understanding was that the quarterback would be fully recovered by “somewhere around June.”
As far as how that might affect the Bucs’ offseason workouts before training camp, the coach pointed to Brady’s “leadership” and said, “He doesn’t have to be out there throwing it anymore.”
“He can be standing there and coach the s--- out of them,” Arians added. “Wherever they meet and work out — I’m hoping we have an offseason for the younger players — Tom doesn’t need it.”
Part of what made Brady’s 2020 campaign so remarkable was that the coronavirus pandemic wiped out the NFL’s offseason last year, which theoretically should have been a major hindrance to getting on the same page with his new teammates. However, Brady organized his own, informal workouts with Bucs players at a Tampa high school — along the way ignoring warnings from the league and its players’ union — and the results spoke for themselves.
Licht described Brady as “a joy to work with,” but said he and Arians don’t always feel the need to consult with the quarterback on player moves. “Tom isn’t banging down the door,” in any event, to demand a say in the roster, said Licht, who noted that Brady was happily surprised by the September signing of running back Leonard Fournette.
One of several impending free agents on the Tampa Bay roster, Fournette was a major factor in the Bucs’ run through four playoff games to a title. Along the way, he and Brady helped Arians become the oldest coach to win a Super Bowl, raising questions about how much longer the 68-year-old intends to remain in the NFL.
“It depends on my golf game, because it sucks right now,” Arians joked. “If it stays this bad, I’m going to coach for a hell of a long time. If it gets really good, then maybe [I’ll retire].
“But no, we’re coming back and going after two,” Arians added, “and we’ll see what happens from there.”