NFC Contender Changes Tune on Tom Brady, Bucs Insider Says

Tom Brady

Getty Tom Brady could play elsewhere in 2023 as a free agent.

Compliments from San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan toward Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady could mean more than pre-game niceties.

That’s the way Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times sees it amid Brady’s return to the Bay Area to face the 49ers on December 11. Brady, who grew up a 49ers fan, got passed by the team in the draft six times in 2000 and then in free agency in 2020.

Shanahan, who had a say in 2020, showed hints of regret and wanting Brady in 2023, Stroud wrote. It came about when the media asked the coach if Brady’s performance with the Bucs in three seasons surprised him.

“I’d like to say of course not, but I think everyone’s since then, you’re wondering when is the number too high?” Shanahan told the media. “But now, like, when you watch him that first week in Tampa, you’re like, ‘What the [expletive] was anyone ever thinking?'”

“The dude looks the exact same he did that year [in 2020]. He does when he comes off injuries, and I think he’s playing as good now and throwing the ball as well now as I’ve seen anybody ever do it,” Shanahan added.

Brady’s 2023 Plans Remain Uncertain

Brady, 45, will become a free agent in 2023, but his future could take any number of turns. He could retire and enter the FOX broadcast booth with a $375 million deal waiting for him. He could play somewhere else or stick with the Bucs instead.

His play hasn’t dropped off overall, and he hasn’t publicly stated if he will play more beyond this season. However, Stroud, who has covered Brady for almost three seasons, noted a couple of key attractions for Brady in the 49ers such as a stable, Super Bowl-ready roster with playmakers on offense.

“Also, don’t underestimate what playing near his home in San Mateo, California, would mean to Brady, as well as becoming part of the 49ers’ quarterback legacy with Joe Montana and Steve Young,” Stroud wrote.

49ers QB Situation in Flux

San Francisco faces a state of flux at quarterback amid injuries to Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance. Garoppolo will become a free agent in 2023, and Lance only has four career starts with mixed results. Brock Purdy, filling in under center for now, is realistically a stop-gap for this season. Hence, Brady could really be a target for the 49ers in 2023 if the team will sit Lance, a 2021 No. 3 pick, for another season, Stroud reported.

“He plays the position better than anyone ever, and he’s definitely the GOAT from what I’ve ever seen,” Shanahan told reporters about Brady. “But I don’t say that just because he has won Super Bowls, but because of how he plays the position. The ball always goes to the right spot, and that answer is based off a thousand different things: it could be matchups, it could be the coverage, it could be based off a down and distance, the time in the game, how the defense is playing.”

“… He just has command of the game and knows how to win it and what it takes, whatever that is. He’s kind of flawless in his technique, how he gets everyone the ball, and he’s done that his whole career,” Shanahan added. “But his throwing mechanics, they only get better each year. So, I feel like his arm’s stronger now than it was 10 years ago, and his legs move just as good as they did 10 years ago. … He’s still the best to play.”

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