Tom Brady had his age-45 campaign come to a close Monday night as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were eliminated from the postseason by the Dallas Cowboys. Brady’s tenure in Tampa Bay also might have come to an end as the future is very much in question for the greatest quarterback of all-time.
Brady sounded like someone who wanted to offer his public goodbyes immediately after the team’s 31-14 defeat in the NFC wild-card round at Raymond James Stadium. The Buccaneers don’t have much say in the decision, either, as Brady is set to hit free agency when the league year begins in March.
Sure, Brady might opt to hang up his Under Armour cleats as he’s accomplished what he said he wanted to accomplish: play until he was 45 years old. Then again, we’re talking about one of the most fiery competitors in the history of the sport, which is why it shouldn’t surprise anyone if he wants to end his legendary career on a different note.
With that said, we unpacked four of the most likely landing spots for Brady should he play in 2023, and it’s no surprise our thoughts closely align with oddsmakers at DraftKings Sportsbook.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+200, DraftKings Sportsbook)
It might be boring, but returning to Tampa Bay shouldn’t be out of the question. There’s no team that gives Brady as good of a shot at making the playoffs as the Buccaneers, who have won the rebuilding NFC South in consecutive seasons. Sure, it was an uninspiring effort this past campaign, but a fair share of Tampa Bay’s problems came due to injury. Buccaneers center Ryan Jensen (played one of 18 games) and offensive tackles Tristan Wirfs and Donovan Smith, who each played 14 of 18 games, all should be healthier next season. That’ll help the offensive line look much better. And the reality is the Bucs still have a stacked roster, especially on the offensive side of the ball with wideouts Chris Godwin and Mike Evans still under contract for multiple seasons. A division title leads to a home playoff game, and perhaps one final run at the Lombardi Trophy.
Las Vegas Raiders (+250, DraftKings)
Brady to Las Vegas continues to lead speculation, and the reasons are plentiful. Most notably, Brady’s connection and relationship with Josh McDaniels is well-documented from their time together with the New England Patriots. The Raiders also will look to add a signal-caller this offseason given the likely departure of Derek Carr. And for Brady, who initially ventured to the Buccaneers given their talent at the pass-catching positions, landing in Sin City would present much of the same level of skill around him. The Raiders have arguably the game’s best wideout in Davante Adams, a star-caliber tight end in Darren Waller along with a shifty slot man in Hunter Renfrow. Brady to Las Vegas also let the 45-year-old travel back to the West Coast and be much closer to home than either New England or Tampa Bay. The brutal AFC gauntlet would make vying for the postseason more difficult, but all things considered, it makes too much sense.
San Francisco 49ers (+350, DraftKings)
This is where Brady should want to go. His long-awaited homecoming would have made all the sense in the world a few seasons ago. And now it helps when that hometown team has arguably the best roster in the NFL. But from the 49ers perspective, turning down the GOAT might actually be an option here. After all, rookie seventh-rounder Brock Purdy, who replaced injured veteran Jimmy Garoppolo, has excelled since his first start and continued San Francisco’s 11-game win streak. And there’s something to be said about a signal-caller on a rookie contract. So given Purdy’s play, it feels like every 49ers win makes this more and more unlikely, however, if San Francisco should come up short of a Super Bowl this February and wants to go all-in, this is an enticing option. It fair to think Brady would serve as a considerable upgrade to Purdy.
New York Jets (+900, DraftKings)
Speaking about playoff-caliber rosters, the current Jets are similar to the 2020 Buccaneers when Brady was making his initial decision. New York has one of the best defenses in the league and their offensive playmakers — wideouts Garrett Wilson and Elijah Moore, running back Michael Carter — certainly would provide enough budding talent around the signal-caller. Gang Green must feel like it was a consistent quarterback away from not only qualifying for the postseason, but making a run in the AFC. Brady, who knows the AFC East as well as anyone, would be an obvious upgrade over Zach Wilson and Mike White. And Jets owner Woody Johnson already has said he would “absolutely” spend on the position.