Brady’s quick reversal puts the Buccaneers in a much better position on Monday, when teams can begin talking to and signing free agents. They will not have to search for a new starting quarterback, and they will be able to tell their own free agents — including key contributors like Rob Gronkowski and Ndamukong Suh — as well as other potential signings that the team will still be helmed by one of the league’s best quarterbacks.
Even with Brady’s return, the team has holes to fill in free agency and the draft.
Any team with Brady will be competitive, but Licht will have to be creative in constructing a roster capable of another Super Bowl appearance. The team is $3 million over the salary cap, according to the salary website Spotrac.
Brady is set to earn $25 million next season, though only about $20 million of that will count against the team’s salary cap. But during his career he reworked his contract a number of times to help his teams sign key players, and it is possible his return to the Buccaneers includes a new contract that lessens his burden on the cap.
Brady’s “unretirement” capped a period of quarterback moves that is likely to shape the NFL next season. Aaron Rodgers, the league’s reigning most valuable player, re-signed with the Green Bay Packers, while the Seattle Seahawks plan to trade Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos for a package that includes draft picks.
Deshaun Watson, who did not play for the Houston Texans last season while dealing with 22 civil lawsuits that accuse him of sexual misconduct, will not be criminally charged in Houston after a grand jury declined to indict him on Friday, though the suits remain active. There are reports some teams are angling to sign him.
Brady’s initial retirement came after days of speculation that he would do so, spurred by an ESPN report breaking the news, a report that was quickly followed by attempts to dispel it from those around him, insisting that Brady was still making up his mind. When he finally did retire, days later, he called the future “exciting” and said he would work on the companies he owned, as well as spend time with his wife, Gisele Bündchen, and their children.
The New England Patriots, the team for which he played his first 20 seasons, and the Buccaneers released tribute videos after he announced his retirement. Hosannas poured in from across the NFL and beyond to laud his career accomplishments and final statistics, figuratively etched in stone, which provided the argument that Brady was the greatest professional football player ever.
Now he will have at least one more season to persuade those who somehow were not yet convinced.