All eyes and ears in Tampa have turned to Tom Brady following the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 30-27 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in the Divisional Round of the 2021-22 playoffs.
Reports surfaced not long before kickoff on Sunday that Brady, 44, has been noncommittal on returning for a third season with the Bucs and his 23rd year in the NFL, which he neither confirmed nor denied when speaking with media after the defeat.
“I haven’t put a lot of thought into it, so you know, we will just take it day by day and kind of see where we are at," Brady said on Sunday evening. "I’m thinking about this game. I’m not thinking about anything past five minutes from now.”
Head coach Bruce Arians and the Buccaneers respect Brady and his accolades aplenty, and as such, intend to offer their franchise quarterback as much time as he needs to make a decision regarding his future.
Brady has two options given his contract situation: Return to Tampa and complete his deal, which will become void after the 2022 season, or retire.
“That’s totally up to Tom," said Arians.
It isn't exactly easy to envision Brady stepping away from the game considering the seven-time Super Bowl champ's drive to win another title in Tampa, which was the very clear goal for the Buccaneers this season, a year removed from a championship victory in his first season with the team. So long as the Bucs don't completely fall apart via free agency this offseason, they'll likely be in playoff and Super Bowl contention once again in 2022.
Age has yet to slow Brady down, either, making it even tougher to imagine Brady retiring right now. He led the NFL in passing yards with 5,316 and touchdowns with 43 in 2021, shattering the Buccaneers' single-season records in both categories.
These are some of the factors Brady will have to weigh before he reaches a decision on his future. At the age of 44, he'll also need to consider his long-term health, and time with his family would also be an element in the equation.
Should Brady ultimately decide to hang up his cleats, the Buccaneers will assess every option they have for their next starting signal-caller. In-house options include Blaine Gabbert, a seasoned veteran who has spent the last two years as Brady's backup, and Kyle Trask, Tampa Bay's 2021 second-round pick who was inactive for his entire rookie season while developing behind Brady and Gabbert.
Ideally, considering the draft capital used to acquire him, Trask would be the man for the job. However, asked about outside options on Sunday, Arians wouldn't rule out assessing the quarterback market should Brady walk away.
"We'll be doing our homework, that's for sure," Arians said, adding that "you never know what’s behind door No. 2," which he specifically said two years ago when the team was considering moving on from quarterback Jameis Winston.
It's difficult not to think about the possibility of Tampa Bay looking into the top quarterbacks available, via free agency or trade, should Brady retire, as the roster is in a position to succeed with a star quarterback at the helm. Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, who has very publicly suggested that his future with the Packers is uncertain, and Seattle's Russell Wilson, who has reportedly considered asking for a trade in the past, immediately come to mind.
But before any interest in Rodgers, Wilson, or another quarterback can come about, Brady must finalize his plans first. The ball is in his court.
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