Tom Brady says he’s returning as Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB next season

Jenna Laine, ESPN Staff Writer

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Tom Brady’s retirement lasted 40 days.

Brady said Sunday he is returning to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for his 23rd season in the NFL. The seven-time Super Bowl champion announced his decision on Twitter and Instagram, saying he has “unfinished business.”

“These past two months I’ve realized my place is still on the field and not in the stands,” Brady wrote. “That time will come. But it’s not now. I love my teammates, and I love my supportive family. They make it all possible. I’m coming back for my 23rd season in Tampa.”

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Brady led the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl title two seasons ago and an NFC South championship last season. He teamed with coach Bill Belichick to win six Super Bowls during 20 seasons with the New England Patriots.

The 44-year-old Brady led the NFL in yards passing (5,316), touchdowns (43), completions (485) and attempts (719) in 2021, but the Buccaneers lost at home to the Los Angeles Rams in the divisional round of the playoffs.

The announcement comes the same day Brady posted a video on his Instagram stories in which soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo asked him, “You’re finished right?” Brady’s answer was not audible, but the expression on his face suggested he really hadn’t closed the door on retirement.

In a statement Sunday evening, Bucs general manager Jason Licht said the announcement was something the team had been preparing for in recent days.

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“[Head coach Bruce Arians] and I have had plenty of conversations with Tom recently that led us to believe there was a realistic chance he would want to come back,” Licht said. “Tom is the greatest quarterback of all time who is still playing at an elite level. With this decision now made, we will continue to move forward with our offseason plans to reload this roster for another championship run.”

Arians at the NFL combine two weeks ago said he didn’t think Brady was returning, adding that he felt the quarterback was done because of the reasons he retired — mainly family. His children are getting older, and his wife, Gisele Bundchen, has said she has struggled with seeing him take so many hits. But Brady is able to return because of the full support of his family.

In a statement on Sunday, Arians said the team is “ecstatic” that Brady decided to come back for another season.

“Tom Brady loves to play football as much as anyone I have ever been around,” Arians said. “As Tom said, his place right now is on the football field.”

The news also comes one day after a collector shelled out $518,000 for the ball used on Brady’s last career touchdown pass to wide receiver Mike Evans, who excitedly tweeted, “LFG!” moments after Brady’s announcement.

Brady’s return comes on the eve of NFL free agency, in which the Bucs will face tough odds to return all of their free agents. Tight end Rob Gronkowski, right guard Alex Cappa, cornerback Carlton Davis, running back Leonard Fournette, safety Jordan Whitehead, defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh and outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul are set to become unrestricted free agents with the Bucs currently $11 million over the salary cap.

Gronkowski has not yet committed to a return for the 2022 season, and he said at the end of the season that his status would not be tied to Brady.

Tampa Bay did lock up one key impending free agent hours after Brady’s announcement, inking center Ryan Jensen to a three-year, $39 million deal, a source told ESPN.

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The Buccaneers saw their odds to win the Super Bowl at Caesars Sportsbook drop from 20-1 entering Sunday to 10-1 following the news of Brady’s return. Their odds to win the NFC went from 10-1 down to 5-1, just behind the Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers.

Brady now also has the third-lowest odds to win the 2022 NFL MVP behind Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers as he dropped from 45-1 to 9-1 following the announcement. Odds involving Brady and the Bucs were down for more than an hour while Caesars Sportsbook worked through the news, along with booking NCAA tournament lines.

Brady is the NFL’s career leader in yards passing (84,520) and touchdowns (624). He is the only player to win more than five Super Bowls and has been MVP of the game five times. Brady has won three NFL MVP awards, has been a first-team All-Pro three times and has been selected to the Pro Bowl 15 times. He is 243-73 in his career in the regular season and 35-12 in the playoffs.

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