Tom Brady is gone from Tampa Bay. He leaves behind a championship legacy — along with a $35.1 million cap charge for 2023.
That’s not money the Bucs owe Brady. It’s cash the Buccaneers previously have paid, using the available devices to kick the can into future years.
As to 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 included no fans, due to the pandemic). Jerseys and other merchandise sales.
But now, as they sit at a projected $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 need to process his retirement after June 1.
Such a contract would reduce Brady’s cap charge 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 to 2024.
For Brady, this would keep him from joining another team, if he changes his mind about playing. Even though he may believe right now that he’ll never play again, he could change his mind.
Signing a new contract would make it much harder. For starters, he’d be under contract with the Bucs until they put him on the reserve-retired list in June. After that, he’d remain on the reserve-retired list until the Buccaneers release or trade his rights.
After the trade deadline, Brady would have to pass through waivers after being released from the reserve-retired list.
So it’s in Brady’s best interests to become a free agent. That would give him the flexibility to do whatever he wants, with no complications or limitations. But it’s in the team’s best interests for Brady to commit to the Bucs, on paper.
If Brady will be doing the Bucs a contractual favor, it needs to happen before his current contract voids in mid-March. If he goes through with it, that will be the clearest indication he truly has no interest in joining another team.
That said, he also could re-sign in Tampa with an express understanding that, if he decides to play again, the Bucs will immediately release his rights. But, again, it would have to happen before the trade deadline, in order to avoid passing through waivers.
Yes, Brady says he’s done for good. But human beings change their minds. Who knows how he’ll feel in July or August or September? He probably doesn’t even know.