We're roughly a month removed from Tom Brady announcing his retirement from the NFL. While the seven-time Super Bowl champion quarterback has said he's walking away, not too many people believe him, and there's been plenty of speculation about him possibly coming out of retirement to play at some point in the future. Even Brady himself left that door open just days after the announcement, telling Jim Gray on his "Let's Go!" podcast that "you never say never" regarding a possible comeback.
There have even been those who suggest that Brady would want to come out of retirement, but no longer play for the Buccaneers and instead go to a team that is more ready-made for a Super Bowl run in 2022. The San Francisco 49ers have been a popular landing spot for Brady in that hypothetical scenario given that it was his childhood team and because the organization still may look to groom 2021 first-round pick Trey Lance for another season.
However, even if that is the path that Brady is secretly plotting to go down, it's not fully in his control. The Buccaneers still own the 44-year-old's rights, meaning the team would need to trade Brady rather than the quarterback simply inking a deal with a club like he did with Tampa Bay back in 2020.
When asked Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine if the Buccaneers would accommodate Brady if he desired to come back with another team, head coach Bruce Arians said, "Nope. Bad business." Arians was again asked about the possibility of trading Brady's rights and what the price would be if they were to put him on the market. He set the haul at "five No. 1's", which further illustrates the team's unwillingness to deal him.
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In the past, we have seen teams trade the rights of retired players who wanted to make a comeback. After retiring in 2016, the Seattle Seahawks traded the right of running back Marshawn Lynch to the then-Oakland Raiders as he returned to the field in 2017. The New England Patriots also traded Rob Gronkowski's rights to the Bucs in 2020 after the tight end decided to mount a comeback to play with Brady in Tampa.
So while this isn't necessarily an uncommon practice, the team that holds the player's rights does need to be a willing participant, which it doesn't appear like the Bucs are. In defense of Tampa Bay, it wouldn't necessarily be a wise decision to allow Brady to play elsewhere from a competitive standpoint, which is what Arians acknowledged in his answer. If Brady wanted to return to the NFL and play for the 49ers, that would create direct competition for the Buccaneers in the NFC.
Of course, Brady could try and force the club's hand later this summer by officially coming out of retirement, thus dropping his contract onto the Buccaneers' salary cap. If they are over the cap or have already addressed the position in a drastic way, that could squeeze the team into actually making a move.
While Brady playing for another team may seem unlikely, it should be noted that the Buccaneers have said that they will "leave the light on" for him to play in 2022, despite this retirement announcement.