Tom Brady says his family will play a crucial factor in deciding whether he returns to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next season.
The 44-year-old has an impending decision whether he will retire or return for a 23rd overall and third season with Tampa Bay, whose bid to repeat as Super Bowl champs ended with a 30-27 loss to Los Angeles Rams in the playoffs on Sunday. Brady has one year remaining on his contract and has said in the past he’d like to play until he’s at least 45.
“I think as I’ve gotten older, I think the best part is, is football is extremely important in my life, and it means a lot to me, and I care a lot about what we’re trying to accomplish as a team and I care a lot about my teammates,” Brady said on his Let’s Go! podcast with Jim Gray. “The biggest difference now that I’m older is I have kids now, too, you know, and I care about them a lot as well. They’ve been my biggest supporters. My wife is my biggest supporter. It pains her to see me get hit out there. And she deserves what she needs from me as a husband, and my kids deserve what they need from me as a dad.”
Tampa head coach Bruce Arians said on Monday that no date has been set for Brady to make his decision, and the quarterback himself said he was in no rush to decide his future.
“Every year I just have to make sure that I have the ability to commit to what the team really needs, and that’s really important to me,” Brady said. “The team doesn’t deserve anything less than my best. And if I feel like I’m not committed to that, or I can’t play at a championship level, then you gotta give someone else a chance to play. And, you know, we’ll see. There’s a long time between now and the start of next football season.”
Brady is aware of one important point as he takes time to ponder his future: the Buccaneers roster next season is likely to look a lot different with or without the seven-time Super Bowl winner.
Unlike last spring when the Bucs defied the odds by retaining every starter from a star-laden lineup that won the franchise’s second NFL championship, general manager Jason Licht and coach Bruce Arians are not in a position to replicate that.
Nearly half the roster is eligible for free agency, including wide receiver Chris Godwin; tights ends Rob Gronkowski and OJ Howard; running backs Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones and Giovani Bernard; linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul; cornerback Carlton Davis; safety Jordan Whitehead; defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh; offensive linemen Ryan Jenson and Alex Cappa; and defensive lineman William Gholston.
Arians said the goal as usual is to “reload” rather than rebuild, with an emphasis on re-signing as many of their own free agents as possible.
“We’ll see how many we can get back and then build the team from there. … Each year is so different and so new,” the coach said. “Last year, to get everybody back was amazing. Doubt we can do it all again this year, but we’re sure going to give it our best.”
Meanwhile, an offseason of unknowns has begun at the home of another star quarterback. The Green Bay Packers are unsure of future hall of famer Aaron Rodgers will remain with the team next season, seek another team or retire.
As opposed to the controversial offseason of a year ago when a disgruntled Rodgers and his only professional team seemed destined for a split, Packers head coach Matt LaFleur made it very clear on Monday that the team want their 17-year veteran to return for 2022.
“Every conversation that I’ve been involved in with Gutey [general manager Brian Gutekunst] and Russ [director of football operations Russ Ball] and Mark [president Mark Murphy], we’re all on the same page there,” LaFleur said on Monday. “There’s no debate.”
Speaking to the media on the heels of Green Bay’s 13-10 upset loss Saturday against the San Francisco 49ers, LaFleur said he met with his quarterback on Monday and while a decision was far off, there was no question the Packers organization hopes for a return.
“I sat down and talked to Aaron today for quite some time,” LaFleur said. “I think we’re all a little numb to the situation right now and, so, I would say that what we talked about, I’m definitely gonna keep between him and myself, but we’re hopeful that he’ll be back next year, obviously.”
The 38-year-old Rodgers did not disappoint this season, tossing up elite numbers (4,115 passing yards, 37 touchdown passes, four interceptions) for what may turn out to be the fourth MVP season of his career. But he admitted after an unspectacular performance on Saturday against the Niners (20-for-29, 225 yards) that while he will not drag out a decision about his future past the start of free agency on 16 March, he also doesn’t plan to stick around if the team decides to start from scratch.
“I don’t want to be part of a rebuild if I’m going to keep playing,” Rodgers said of the Packers.
The Packers are projected to be $44.8m over the 2022 salary cap. Wide receiver Davante Adams has said publicly he wants to be the NFL’s highest-paid wide receiver and said last year there will be no hometown discount to stay in Green Bay.
To keep Rodgers, the Packers would need to sign him to a long-term extension. His cap charge in 2022 is $46m, negotiated intentionally by Rodgers last offseason when his disdain for the front office came to light.
The mood has since shifted. If it’s up to his head coach, there is no decision from the Green Bay standpoint as LaFleur said he wants the Packers to do “everything in our power to try to get him back here and making sure he’s comfortable with the direction of our football team.”
“There’s no plan for a rebuild,” said LaFleur. “You get this close, obviously win a lot of football games, and we know in order for there not to be that, he’s gotta be a part of this thing. I don’t think that’s anybody’s intention.”