Patriots

Tom Brady announces he's returning to Buccaneers

Patriots

Well, that didn't last long.

Less than two months after announcing his retirement from the NFL, Tom Brady has reversed course and announced he's returning to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for what will be his 23rd NFL season.

Brady has spent the last two seasons in Tampa following two decades with the New England Patriots, helping the team win Super Bowl LV after the 2020 season before getting knocked out in the NFC Divisional playoffs by the Los Angeles Rams in 2021. He led the league in both passing yards (5,316) and passing touchdowns (43) a season ago at age 44. 

NFL Twitter reacts to Tom Brady returning for 2022

The Buccaneers don't need to sign him to a new deal, as Brady had agreed to a one-year extension in March 2021 that runs through the 2022 season. 

Brady's announcement comes less than 24 hours before the legal tampering period was set to begin in the NFL ahead of free agency, meaning the Buccaneers will be standing pat as the quarterback carousel spins. The only other quarterback Tampa Bay has under contract for the 2022 season is Kyle Trask, whom the team selected in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

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By coming back, Brady will be fulfilling his long-stated goal of playing until he's 45, which he turns on Aug. 3.

 

Over the weekend, Brady had paid a visit to see Manchester United play a match in the English Premier League, a trip which, in fact, was likely all business. Manchester United is owned by the Glazer family, which also owns the Buccaneers. While visiting England, Brady had spoken with United star Cristiano Ronaldo, who'd asked Brady if he was "finished."

Forty days later, he's anything but finished, all but ensuring Tampa Bay will remain among the league's elite. Brady's favorite target, Mike Evans, is under contract through 2023 and the team used the franchise tag on wide receiver Chris Godwin last week. Brady's former teammate in New England, Rob Gronkowski, is a free agent, but hasn't ruled out returning for what would be a 12th NFL season and third with Brady and the Bucs.

Based on the NFL's current scheduling template, the Buccaneers could play the Patriots at Gillette Stadium again in 2023, but only if Tampa Bay and New England both finish in the same place in their respective divisions this season. After that, the Buccaneers wouldn't be guaranteed another trip to Foxboro until the 2029 season, at which point Brady would be 52 years old.

Brady announcing his return so soon may be a tad surprising, as well as the fact that he definitively committed to Tampa Bay amid reports of a strained relationship with head coach Bruce Arians. In the grand scheme of things, it's not surprising at all that Brady is coming back, given his repeated cryptic answers about if he was, in fact, retired.

The return of Brady, the 199th pick in the 2000 NFL Draft, makes him the oldest active player in the NFL. No players remain from the 2001, 2002 or 2003 draft classes. Following the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger, the next most-tenured quarterbacks in the NFL are Aaron Rodgers and Ryan Fitzpatrick, both of whom were drafted in 2005.