The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won’t just let any Tom Brady suitor sign the greatest quarterback of all time in free agency after the season.
Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported on Sunday, January 15, that the Bucs “very much want [Brady] back and plan to make efforts toward that”. Rob Maadi of The Associated Press reported that the Bucs “are still his most likely team despite all the interest he’ll get from others”.
Rapoport previously noted that Brady “has great affection for the Glazers” during NFL Network’s “NFL GameDay” on January 14. While Brady has a good relationship with Bucs ownership, the team could face challenges in keeping the superstar quarterback.
Tampa Bay stumbled to an 8-9 regular season with a narrow NFC South division title win amid a slew of injuries. The Bucs sit $43.3 million over the salary cap, per Spotrac, after the season with key free agents to re-sign besides Brady. Several position groups, especially the offensive line, will face lots of questions in the offseason.
The Bucs also committed to keeping head coach Todd Bowles for 2023, according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. While Brady publicly backs Bowles, Brady experienced a career-worst season in numerous areas under the first-year head coach.
“I would say there’s a chance he does not return,” Rapoport said of Brady.
Where Brady Might Land
Rumored teams pursuing Brady already include the Las Vegas Raiders, Tennessee Titans, and San Francisco 49ers.
The Miami Dolphins are on Brady’s radar according to a source via Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio. However, the team plans to keep Tua Tagovailoa as the starter next season, Florio reported on Sunday.
Las Vegas will “aggressively pursue” Brady according to a source via CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones. The 49ers could land Brady according to Rapoport, and the Titans likely could also join the fray, Rapoport reported.
Brady has ties with all three franchises or cities. Brady grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and he has a coach in Josh McDaniels with the Raiders and a former teammate in Mike Vrabel with the Titans.
All three of those team possess viable starters and would need to make moves. The 49ers have two injured starting-caliber quarterbacks in Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance, but backup Brock Purdy keeps shining. Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill just completed his fourth season as the starter, and the team drafted dual-threat Malik Willis last year. Las Vegas, meanwhile, has a longtime starter in Derek Carr but could move on after his benching in December.
Dark Horses in Brady Sweepstakes Abound
Several dark horse teams for Brady could also pop up if he tests free agency, based on prior rumors.
The New England Patriots could bring him back for a final run, or either New York team, Giants or Jets, could also lure the seven-time Super Bowl champion. Brady notably has his oldest son, Jack, in New York.
The Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints have also been linked to Brady in free agency rumors. Both teams have strong defenses but the offenses have underperformed the past two seasons with no playoff appearances in that span.
Another possible factor in free agency for Brady lies with former Saints head coach Sean Payton, who could return to the sidelines in 2023. Brady and Payton were tied together in a package deal for the Dolphins last offseason, which fell through amid the Brian Flores lawsuit. Payton will likely have to coach elsewhere since the Saints announced plans to keep head coach Dennis Allen.