Will Buccaneers recover unearned signing bonus money from Tom Brady?

NFC Divisional Playoffs - Los Angeles Rams v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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As explained over the weekend, Tom Brady‘s retirement decision had nothing to do with the February 4 deadline for payment of $15 million in deferred signing bonus money. Now that he has retired, what happens?

He’s still entitled to the $15 million. However, Brady’s contract from March 12, 2021 (a copy of which PFT has obtained) includes standard forfeiture language — along with standard language allowing the teams, “in its sole discretion, to deduct and set off at any time and from time to time all or any part of any sums owed by Player to Club from any current, deferred or future wages, salaries, bonuses, performance-based pay, postseason pay, severance pay, termination pay, injury protection benefit and/or any other additional consideration owed to Player by Club.” (Emphasis added.)

Because the $20 million applied to a five-year contract, the signing bonus attaches to the contract at the rate of $4 million per year. By playing one year, Brady “earned” only $4 million of the bonus. Technically, he owes $16 million.

The more fair approach would be to regard the contract for what it was, a two-year deal with a $20 million signing bonus. If anything, the amount the Bucs request should be at most $10 million, half of the amount Brady didn’t earn by performing only half of the contract.

If the Buccaneers see it that way, they’d pay him $5 million on Thursday and keep the other $10 million. Brady technically doesn’t have much leverage here; he’s bound by the contract he signed and the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The real question for the Bucs is whether they want to exercise forfeiture rights against a player who brought the team a Super Bowl win in 2020, and who made them extremely relevant in 2021.

In theory, the Bucs could simply cut Brady the $15 million as a parting gift. Given everything the team gained by his decision to join the Buccaneers, it wouldn’t be difficult to justify.

14 responses to “Will Buccaneers recover unearned signing bonus money from Tom Brady?

  1. I hate it when teams “give away” money out of the salary cap. It could pay for a nice lineman instead.

  2. Does anyone actually believe Brady and the Bucs haven’t already worked this out? Of course the Glazers are going to spring for the money to help Tom and Gisele buy the Denver Broncos.

  3. Cue all the GOAT enablers who say “nothing here/move on” when it comes to legal and rules issues with Tomasina Brady. I personally hope he sues the team and wins all $15 million from that sorry franchise.

  4. There’s also the salary cap to keep in mind. If they don’t have to pay the remaining bonus money, they get some extra cap room–which they badly need.

  5. There’s also the principle of giving a rich guy $10 million out of the goodness of their heart – or because he’s entitled to $10 million that he didn’t earn. It’s crazy how blind people are to paying athletes/entertainers millions of dollars they didn’t earn. Gee, I wonder why tickets are so expensive?

  6. Brady has always been sensitive about how much he’s paid and how it affects his team’s salary cap. I imagine with the wealth he has, he’d prioritize helping the Bucs cap situation over bleeding as much money as he can out of the franchise.

  7. This is why Tom didn’t want to announce his retirement yet. He would’ve gotten the full $15 million and then the Bucs would have had to ask for it back when he retired later. That may have been a bad look to ask for money back after the fact. But now the Bucs can just withhold money justifiably and Tom would look bad asking for money he technically isn’t entitled to. Tom must be livid with whoever leaked his retirement news.

  8. Brady should volunteer to give it back. He certainly doesn’t need the money. And the Bucs got him a big add-on to his legend.

  9. Since teams can’t just give off the book “gifts”, since there’s already a contractual opportunity to float him a $15m thank you, if the Bucs have any sense they will.

    For Pete’s sake, this guy LITERALLY got them a Super Bowl.

  10. “It’s crazy how blind people are to paying athletes/entertainers millions of dollars they didn’t earn. Gee, I wonder why tickets are so expensive?”

    The value of the Tampa Franchise rose by 150 million because of Brady- might say he earned it.

  11. How the Bucs handle this situation will speak volumes towards how they will be perceived by potential free agents for many years to come.

  12. It would be helpful if Mike delved into the cap implications of things like this. I mean if I were a billionaire owner in these circumstances, I would have no issue with parting with $16 million as a “thank you” gift, particularly as it likely contributes to TB being a happy alumni and creating value for the team. But if I’m hurting my ability to field a competitive team in 2022, that changes the equation.

  13. Don’t worry, Brady will “unretire” once the Bucs are strapped against the cap, forcing his way to a trade he likes.

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