Many didn’t give credence to the recent rumors about Tom Brady potentially calling it a career this offseason. After all, Brady played at an MVP level in the 2021 season and he’s signed through the 2022 campaign.
The future Hall of Fame quarterback very well could return for a 23rd season, and if he does, he’ll probably rank among the league’s best signal-callers once again. All of that said, Sunday afternoon’s game at Raymond James Stadium serving as Brady’s last in the NFL feels like a very real possibility.
For starters, the rumors themselves should count for something. Even as Brady climbed into his late 30s and early 40s, there never was any doubt about him returning for another go-around. At the end of the 2019 season, which most knew would be Brady’s 20th and last in New England, retirement was never in question for the then-42-year-old. The only uncertainty about his situation was where he would take his talents.
Brady ultimately chose Tampa Bay, where in his very first season as a Buccaneer he proved he could win a Super Bowl without the aid of Bill Belichick. Brady and the Bucs were well set up to make another run to football’s biggest stage this season, but their playoff journey ended in heartbreak with a last-second loss to the Los Angeles Rams in the divisional round. The 15-time Pro Bowl selection elected not to talk about his future after the thrilling game, which suggests retirement very much is on the table.
Tampa Bay’s outlook for the 2022 season also should be taken into consideration. The Bucs have a number of key impending free agents including three of Brady’s favorite weapons — Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski and Leonard Fournette — as well as two starting offensive linemen. (While we’re on the topic of retirement, there seemingly is a chance Sunday was Gronk’s final game, too.) Tampa Bay was able to retain its entire free-agent class last year, but the organization probably isn’t bound for such luck this time around.
Not just from a financial perspective, but desire as well. Following Sunday’s game, Buccaneers co-captain Lavonte David revealed there was “a lot of turmoil going on” within the organization this season. Tampa Bay players headed for the open market might covet a fresh start elsewhere, and Brady, as one of the most prominent members of the franchise, might decide patching wounds and mending fences isn’t worth the stress at his age and this stage of his career.
Brady knows he has nothing left to prove to others. He made as much clear in the new “Man in the Arena” docuseries, the final episode of which won’t air until the spring. Perhaps the delayed release of the episode is another sign that Brady has given retirement legitimate thought of late.
To be clear, this isn’t saying that Brady is more likely to hang up his pads this offseason than come back for a third season in Tampa Bay. All we’re saying is the retirement chatter should not be disregarded, and a potential announcement in the coming months shouldn’t come as a complete stunner.