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Could Tom Brady be thinking about joining a new team?

NFC Divisional Playoffs - Los Angeles Rams v Tampa Bay Buccaneers

TAMPA, FLORIDA - JANUARY 23: Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers reacts in the second quarter of the game against the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Divisional Playoff game at Raymond James Stadium on January 23, 2022 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

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Despite the nonchalance many have expressed regarding the possibility that Tom Brady will retire in lieu of playing next season, Brady has said -- on multiple occasions -- that he’ll play through 2022 and then decide whether to continue. Thus, as much as some would like to ignore it, something has changed. Dramatically.

What is it, then? How and why did Brady go from being all in for 2022 to being “noncommittal” for next season. (ESPN reported over the weekend that he “remains noncommittal” about playing next year, phrasing that ignores even more strongly the things Brady has, you know, said.)

There’s a belief that Mrs. Brady, otherwise known as Gisele Bundchen, has laid down the law with her husband. That, regardless of whether he wants to keep playing in 2022 and beyond, she’s telling him that 22 seasons are more than enough.

Here’s another possibility, one that is pure speculation but can’t be ignored. What if Brady is hoping to wiggle out of Tampa and go to a team that he thinks will be better suited to get him to his eighth Super Bowl win?

The deck was stacked for the Bucs this season, with all 22 starters from last year’s championship run returning. Injuries were a problem. Linebacker Lavonte David also pointed to “turmoil” within the team.

How much did the Antonio Brown fiasco -- and the team’s handling of it -- potentially sour Brady? Has he lost faith in the ability of coach Bruce Arians to coax the team to the top of the mountain?

We don’t know the truth about this because Brady would never admit to it. Given the current gap between the Rams and Buccaneers, however, it’s hard not to wonder whether Brady, if he continues to play, will want to roll another set of loaded dice?

Where would that be? Well, his first choice two years ago was San Francisco. (They passed.) How about a year for Brady, as Trey Lance continues to develop? Lance would get to watch and learn from the best ever for a year. And the 49ers, a final-four team despite having a quarterback who isn’t even in the top 20, could add Brady to a highly-talented roster and a brilliant coaching staff (his former teammate, Wes Welker, works there) and finally get their sixth Super Bowl win.

Brady would have to finesse his way out of Tampa. He signed a one-year extension in 2021, primarily to reduce his cap number. If he asks the Buccaneers to trade or release him, maybe they would. Maybe, when he agreed to extend his contract last year, he sought and received a wink-nod commitment that he’ll be released, if he asks to be, after 2021.

Regardless, the sudden confusion regarding Brady’s status for 2021 is far more stunning than most are treating it. While retirement seems to be the far more likely option, it’s impossible to rule out the possibility that Brady will indeed honor his longstanding commitment to play until his 45 -- and that maybe he’ll do what he can to wrap up with career with the 49ers.