At some point during a crazy Saturday that included ESPN reporting that quarterback Tom Brady will retire and Brady pushing back, it was suggested that Brady won’t retire before February 4, because he’s owed $15 million in deferred signing-bonus money that day.
Frankly, the February 4 trigger meanings nothing.
Brady signed a new contract last year. He earned upon signing it a $20 million signing bonus. Of that amount, $15 million was deferred until this February 4, 2022. He has earned that money.
That said, the Buccaneers will have the right to recoup signing bonus money from Brady, if he retires with unearned signing bonus money on the books. Technically, since the deal includes three dummy years, he has not yet earned $16 million.
February 4 affects neither the reality that Brady has earned the full $20 million nor the fact that the Bucs have the right to recover up to $16 million of it.
It’s cleaner and simpler if the Bucs never pay the $15 million. But they’d still be entitled to up to $16 million back. Whether they’ve paid Brady the $15 million he has already earned is irrelevant.
Given Brady’s enormous wealth, it’s also beneath him to play games with the timing of his retirement in the hopes of snookering the Bucs out of $15 million. Regardless of whether he retires before or after February 4, he still owes the Bucs $16 million — if they ask for it back.
Will they ask for all of it? Some of it? The most fair outcome would be to reclaim $10 million of it since it was basically a two-year deal, and he played one year of it. So pay him $5 million on February 4 and call it a day.
However they handle it, February 4 is meaningless.