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Tom Brady attends Manchester United match, and all that that possibly implies

Retired, for now, quarterback Tom Brady made a headline on Saturday by attending the Manchester United match against Tottenham Hotspur.

That headline could be just another piece of a puzzle that eventually and inevitably leads to a much more significant headline.

Manchester United is owned by the same family that owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. As we’ve mentioned a time of two while pushing the idea that Brady will eventually try to find a graceful exit from the one year remaining on his Tampa Bay contract, the public posturing of Bucs coach Bruce Arians means nothing. The decisions made by ownership of the team will mean everything.

Brady’s power play (if he’s going to make one) will require a personal appeal to the Glazers. His case is a simple one. He originally signed a two-year contract. His one-year extension from 2021 was aimed at creating cap space. He didn’t get a big raise (he deserved one) after winning a Super Bowl, and he didn’t get a pile of new money premised on actually playing for the Bucs through 2022. He took the bulk of his salary as a guaranteed payment, in order to make it easier to keep a championship team together.

His obligation to the Bucs, as a practical matter, is over. Whether that means releasing him this week with a post-June 1 designation (thereby avoiding a $32 million cap charge) or agreeing to trade him effective June 1, Brady can make a strong case to the Glazers for the ability to move on.

There has been no reporting (yet) that he spoke to the Glazers or that he or his representatives have begun a push to implement what was, in my view, not a retirement from football but a retirement from his current football team.

This is just another piece of evidence. Another bread crumb on a trail that could lead Brady back to San Francisco and the short-term gig with the 49ers, two years after he wanted to join the 49ers but the 49ers declined.

This time around, they surely wouldn’t. There is reason to believe Trey Lance isn’t ready. There is reason to believe the team is ready to move on from Jimmy Garoppolo. There is reason to believe that Brady, who presumably has nothing left to accomplish, would like to chase Super Bowl win No. 8 while playing for the team he grew up following.

Brady has accomplished enough in the NFL generally and for the Buccaneers specifically that he shouldn’t have to make public demands. He shouldn’t have to get his hands dirty. That’s not how he ever operates.

Brady has shown a knack for getting what he wants. I think he wants to keep playing football for a different team. The key to that outcome isn’t held by Arians or G.M. Jason Licht or anyone other than the family that owns both the Buccaneers and the soccer club Brady watched play on Saturday.

Rewind to last Sunday. Think about the crazy things that have happened in the past seven days. Brady securing an exit from the Bucs could be the next crazy thing to happen, even though it would be far more plausible than a couple of the things that happened this week would have seemed if someone had predicted them a week ago.