A crazy offseason is underway in Tampa Bay, as the Buccaneers begin to chart the franchise’s course in the post-Tom Brady era.
Bucs fans are asking themselves a lot of questions in the aftermath, one of which is whether or not Brady retiring actually helps the team.
The obvious answer is no. It’s impossible to sell Brady retiring as anything other than a massive step back for the team — which is incredibly unfortunate given how well the team was set up to succeed after he walked away.
Instead, the Bucs experienced an all-time fumbling of the bag in terms of wasting the goodwill created during the 2020 and 2021 seasons and completely regressing to the way things felt the previous 15 years before Brady arrived.
None of the mess that exists in his absence is because Brady retired. But even if things had gone well last year and the team hadn’t undone so much of the good it achieved, the loss of Brady would have still set the team back.
So how could it be that Brady retiring was actually a good thing?
How Tom Brady retiring actually helps the Buccaneers
Brady retiring and Brady filing his retirement papers mean two different things to the Bucs, and we’re going to zero in on the latter. When he released that video of himself on the beach it cost the Bucs exactly zero dollars; when he officially filed his papers, $35 million in dead cap went onto Tampa Bay’s books.
If Brady had waited until June to file his papers, the Bucs could have spread out that dead cap space across two seasons. For instance, the team could have absorbed $11 million of it this offseason and shifted the remaining $24 to next offseason. This would have potentially made it easier to find room for someone like Derek Carr or create space to bring back key players who might otherwise depart.
With all $35 million hitting the books this offseason, the Bucs’ hands are more or less tied. There isn’t nearly as much cap flexibility, but that has simply forced the team to rip the proverbial bandaid off.
Rather than have Brady’s dead cap affect next year’s free agency plans, the Bucs are setting themselves up to have more flexibility next year when it might need it more. Not only could the team be in a proper rebuilding phase, but there are key players like Antonie Winfield Jr., Devin White, and Tristan Wirfs who will either need new deals or extensions. It also opens up more possibilities for adding key players elsewhere on the roster, with guys like Laremy Tunsil, Chris Jones, and Danielle Hunter all free agents. Mike Evans is set to be a free agent in 2024 as well, which means the Bucs need to find space to bring him back as well (assuming that’s in the plans).
All of that is to say, the Bucs have just as much if not more on their offseason To-Do list next year as it does this year. Not needing to account for that dead cap space goes a long way.
Something else it does is take away any lingering questions, both for Brady and for the Bucs. If he had waited until June to file his papers, the narrative would be that he hadn’t officially walked away and there was still a chance he might come back.
Heck, some fans still think he might return next year even after filing his papers so imagine if he had left the door even more open.
Beyond Brady, the Bucs front office is off the hook. If the papers weren’t filed, all Jason Licht and company would be bombarded with questions about Brady’s future, the team’s plan, and how Brady fit into it, and every move would be scrutinized through a Brady lens.
There are still a ton of valid questions to pepper the front office with, but not having everything focused on Brady takes some of the stress off. It also creates clarity for the Bucs as well. Without retirement papers filed, the Bucs would be stuck in limbo and divided between two futures: one with Brady and one without.
At least now the team can proceed down one path without worrying about what the grass looks like on the other side.
Brady leaving the Bucs was never going to be an easy pill to swallow, but Tom Brady retiring actually helps in more ways than it hurts.