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TAMPA, Fla. – Nearly six weeks after announcing his retirement from the NFL, and on the eve of a free NFL agency threatening to wind down a Tampa Bay Buccaneers list that was almost completely intact last season after their Super Bowl championship in 2020, quarterback Tom Brady announced that he is returning for a 23rd season for “unfinished business.”
That business would include taking another run at a championship after leading the NFL in almost every major statistical category at age 44 and coming within a breath of beating the final Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Division Round , before the Rams kicked a last-second field goal.
While several NFL teams are in a tight spot this offseason with demand exceeding supply at quarterback position, Bucs general manager Jason Licht, who two weeks ago at the NFL combine, said they would “leave a light on” for Brady , that they said they would “go ahead with their offseason plans to reload this list for another championship.”
Without Brady, the Bucs faced tough odds with their list and no clear starter at quarterback. While Licht and coach Bruce Arians said Kyle Trask at the combination last year’s second-round draft pick would compete for the starting job, members of the coaching staff said privately that they did not believe Trask, who spent the 2021 season leading the scout team and focusing on mechanics and improvement of his body composition, was ready to take over.
Now he does not have to be, and the Bucs must try to participate in Deshaun Watson’s competitions. The Bucs had been monitoring the Houston Texans quarterback for the past few days since he was cleared of all charges by a grand jury, but they did not feel optimistic about the situation.
It would have been out of character for them to spend a large number of draft picks on a trade, something they have not done since buying coach Jon Gruden before winning Super Bowl XXXVII in 2002.
The first domino fell on Sunday night when center Ryan Jensen said yes to a three-year deal worth $ 39 million with $ 23 million guaranteed. Jensen will earn an average of $ 13 million a year, but he could have gotten $ 14 or $ 15 million on the open market. Brady called Jensen on Sunday afternoon to tell him he was on his way back, which made the wheels turn.
The Bucs had already applied the franchise mark to wide receiver Chris Godwin just before Tuesday’s deadline hit, ensuring they would have one of Brady’s favorite goals left for at least another year.
However, they still face tough odds of retaining some of their talent, with tight-end Rob Gronkowski, cornerback Carlton Davis, right guard Alex Cappa, safety Jordan Whitehead, running back Leonard Fournette, defensive linemen William Gholston and Ndamukong Suh and outside linebacker Jason Pierre -Paul is poised to become unlimited free agents when legal manipulation opens at noon ET on Monday.
But the lure of competing for a title and making it with it without a doubt the best quarterback ever is what enabled the Bucs to return all 22 starters from their Super Bowl list last season and could get some players to take less as Brady has consistently done throughout his career. Licht and Arians have said on several occasions, however, that they will not be able to bring everyone back.
Placing left-wing Ali Marpet on the pension list and restructuring Vita Vea’s contract has given Bucs the opportunity to create a slightly higher salary cap in recent days. They are still in the red, about $ 3 million above the ceiling, and have until Wednesday to get there.
Brady’s return means he will get the retirement trip he said he would not have and he will have to do so with one of the toughest schedules for any team in the league. The actual dates will not be announced until April, but in addition to their NFC South opponents, the Bucs will face the Rams, Cincinnati Bengals, San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens next season, and a of their matches are played in Germany.
Brady can now fulfill his quest to play until he is 45, something he has previously said was a personal benchmark. That was the age major league baseball pitcher Nolan Ryan, who Brady has often been compared to due to longevity, decided to call it a career after 27 years.
It is also important to note that Brady would not be able to do this without the support of his family. They were a key reason Brady retired in the first place, and he posted a picture of them when he announced his retirement on Instagram, where he wrote: “I love my teammates and I love my supportive family. Without them none of this is possible. ”