The Impact of Tom Brady’s Retirement Is Still Unfolding
Tom Brady will not be competing on a football field next fall. That much is certain, at least if you believe his second retirement will stick.
In the past, N.F.L. players had to file paperwork with the league office to receive certain retirement benefits, and determining if a player had formally retired or not offered insight into whether the decision would stick.
But times have changed.
“There is no requirement to submit official paperwork,” Brian McCarthy, an N.F.L. spokesman, wrote in an email. “A public statement from a player, such as participating in a press conference or posting a video from a beach, would suffice.”
By the “posting a video from a beach” standard, Brady is officially retired, as far as the league is concerned, and the clock can start ticking on his eligibility for benefits and being voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
There could, however, be one more slight delay in that process: Robert K. Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, told CNN that he wanted to sign Brady to a one-day contract so he could retire as a member of the Patriots — the team he played for in 20 of his 23 N.F.L. seasons. The symbolic gesture is sometimes used so a star player can get a proper goodbye from the team he was most associated with.
Brady’s retirement, however, leaves others — notably the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Fox — to ponder their futures. Brady was one of the greatest players in the history of the game, and his absence will have a ripple effect on the sport.
The Buccaneers must first determine how serious Brady is about retirement. If his decision is not set in stone, they will have to consider whether they want to try to lure him back. But assuming he is done, they must answer a question all N.F.L. teams are eventually faced with: Are we competitive or not?
The Buccaneers sneaked into a divisional title and an appearance in the playoffs despite a losing record this season. Injuries piled up for the Buccaneers, a veteran-laden team that had mortgaged its future to be competitive for as long as Brady was on the roster.
Now that he isn’t, and the bill has come due, does General Manager Jason Licht blow up the team? Does Blaine Gabbert, the team’s backup quarterback, get a promotion, or will the team seek a replacement like Jimmy Garoppolo, who is set to enter free agency after six seasons with the San Francisco 49ers? (That Garoppolo had once been seen as Brady’s heir apparent in New England adds intrigue.)
Whatever Tampa Bay decides, Brady will linger on the team’s balance sheet. Because of the way his contract was restructured last year, he will count as $35 million against the team’s salary cap for the 2023 season. The Buccaneers are already $55 million over the salary cap, according to Spotrac.
There is some administrative maneuvering the Buccaneers can engage in to spread out the hit of Brady’s contract, but ultimately they will have to account for that money.
Brady, who had plenty of leverage with Tampa Bay, made substantially more money each year he played for the Buccaneers than he did in his time with the Patriots, where he took a number of team-friendly contracts. Even as a slightly diminished player, he could still have commanded a hefty sum to play next season. But unlike some peers who hang around for paychecks, Brady will be well compensated in his post-N.F.L. life.
Last off-season, Fox signed Brady to a huge contract to join the network’s top N.F.L. announcing booth once he retired. This came shortly after Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, who had called Fox’s top games for two decades, decamped together to ESPN.
Brady’s deal has been reported by The New York Post as being worth $375 million over 10 years, though Fox has not confirmed that amount and has declined to comment.
Without Buck and Aikman, and with Brady still playing, Fox promoted Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen, a former Carolina Panthers tight end, to their top booth. Burkhardt and Olsen will call the Super Bowl next weekend. But presumably Brady will replace Olsen at some point, possibly soon.
Before this season, Olsen said he was going to try to do as good a job as possible to make the decision for Fox executives to replace him with Brady as difficult as possible. And if they still do it?
“At the end of the day, I’m a big boy,” he said in a radio interview last month. “I know what I signed up for. I took a chance on myself. I rolled the dice.”