At this point nine months ago, Tom Brady was officially retired. It's safe to say he's changed his mind.
After ending his brief retirement at 40 days and coming back for his 23rd NFL season, Brady is rounding into form with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have won two straight to improve to 5-5 entering their bye week.
Those wins have apparently sparked optimism in Tampa Bay that Brady will not only keep playing in 2023, but do so with the Bucs in his third season with the team.
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"He loves it here," former Bucs head coach and current senior football consultant Bruce Arians told JoeBucsFan.com's Ira Kaufman this week. "He loves his teammates, his coaches and the organization. If he decides to play next season, I think it will be with the Buccaneers."
Brady signed a one-year, $15 million contract with the Bucs this offseason, so he'd be free to sign with any team in 2023 free agency. But Kaufman also spoke to an unnamed Bucs source who likes Tampa Bay's chances of retaining the 45-year-old for his age-46 season.
"Everybody here knows Brady is one year at a time, but what you see every day is a guy who acts like he wants to keep playing," the source told Kaufman.
"This is his team, and the team loves him. He’s heavily invested in many ways. It’s hard to imagine he’d find a better situation with another franchise. And he’s been playing great for three years."
Arians and this source are obviously biased. While the Bucs have played better of late, they've been hindered by a patchwork offensive line that lost three starters this past offseason. Tampa Bay ranks 27th in the NFL in total offense and 31st in rushing yards per game, which are eye-opening numbers for a Brady-led group.
Is there a clear better option for TB12, though? A reunion with former New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels in Las Vegas would be intriguing, but it's hard to argue the 2-7 Raiders have a better supporting cast than Tampa Bay.
There's also speculation about Brady joining his hometown San Francisco 49ers, but a lot would need to happen for that scenario to play out, including the team essentially giving up on 2021 first-rounder Trey Lance.
Brady's decision may come down to how the Bucs fare the rest of the season. If they rally to reach the postseason and fall short of another Super Bowl, he might be motivated to run it back for a 24th season. If Brady misses the playoffs for just the second time as a starter, though, his eyes may wander elsewhere in 2023.