Linked as a potential Tom Brady coworker earlier this year, Sean Payton will follow the Buccaneers quarterback to Fox. Though, the two NFL mainstays’ timelines might not overlap at the network.
The 16-year Saints coach agreed to a deal to become a Fox analyst, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, who adds Payton was in talks with Amazon as well. Payton indicated a desire to explore broadcasting. For now, that will be the Super Bowl-winning HC’s role.
Brady, of course, signed a 10-year, $375MM deal to be Fox’s lead analyst — whenever his final retirement decision commences. While Brady is ticketed to try his hand in the No. 1 analyst role, Florio notes Payton will work in the studio for Fox. It is conceivable Brady makes his debut for the network this season, depending on the Buccaneers’ performance, but he and Payton might not see their paths cross. Payton, 58, may take the Bill Cowher/Jimmy Johnson route and stay on the broadcasting side for good, but he has consistently been connected to other coaching jobs.
Tom Brady‘s recent restructure dropped his 2022 cap number from $24MM to $13.8MM, giving the Buccaneers more wiggle room this year. Brady’s redone contract now calls for a $1.1MM base salary and $13.88MM roster bonus. They now have more than $10MM in cap space.
Tampa Bay’s move will also add to the escalating Brady debt while also restricting the team’s avenues to hang onto the all-time great beyond this season. Although it is not certain the 44-year-old quarterback will want to play in 2023, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe notes the restructure prevents the Bucs from using the franchise or transition tags on Brady (Twitter link). The deal also includes $4.5MM worth of 2022 incentives, Volin adds.
The Bucs have not discussed another Brady extension; he remains on track for free agency in 2023. Matters like Brady’s desire to play an age-46 season, his performance at 45 and potential interest from other teams will factor into that process. Brady’s restructure took one option off the table for the Bucs, though the tag might have been an untenable measure anyway thanks to the deal’s void years.
This restructure adds more money to Brady’s first void year, raising that 2023 cap hit from $24MM to $35MM. Brady’s void years now run through 2026, piling up potential dead-money charges. Unless Brady agrees to another extension with the Bucs, they will be hit with those fees beginning next year.
Brady has been connected to the Dolphins and 49ers, and though it sounds crazy to speculate on an NFLer venturing into Bernard Hopkins territory as a late-40s contact-sport athlete, Brady’s 2023 free agency will certainly be a topic of conversation. Brady’s restructure stands to help the Bucs mount another run this season, potentially with Rob Gronkowski and Ndamukong Suh back on board, but it also moves the 23rd-year veteran closer to a 2023 exit — even if retirement No. 2 does not happen by that point.
Two weeks ago, one of our staff writers, Rory Parks, posted a story detailing an update on a bit of a conspiracy being reported by Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. The reporting from Florio concerned a plan by the Dolphins to acquire quarterback Tom Brady and former-Saints head coach Sean Payton to create one of the most enviable QB-HC tandems in the league.
The theory dates back to January 2020, when Brady was set to hit free agency and the possibility arose that he may finally leave New England. Florio reported that the Dolphins were generating the most buzz with talk of potentially making Brady a minority owner of the team. Then, this past February, Florio followed it up with a report that the Dolphins, once again, were looking into acquiring the two leaders during the offseason. Florio’s most recent reports on the matter double down on his assertion, claiming that the deal was “very close” to going down before former-Dolphins head coach Brian Floresfiled a racial discrimination lawsuit against the team following his dismissal, throwing a wrench into any of Miami’s plans moving forward.
For the most part, it’s been Florio, alone, beating this drum, but, in an episode of STUpodity, the podcast hosted by Dan Le Batard and Jon Weiner, known professionally as Stugotz, released this Friday, NBC Sports’ Chris Simms added some fuel to the fire.
During the podcast, Simms said, “(The Dolphins) were going to trade a second-round pick to Tampa Bay to get Brady. (The Buccaneers) weren’t going to hold him hostage. Sean Payton and the Saints, that was going to be a first-round pick to get that deal done. It was a very real, tangible thing and the Brian Flores lawsuit definitely threw a wrench in it.”
It’s difficult to say how much, if any, of this was legitimately set to happen. In theory it makes sense, but, at the same time, the moves necessary to bring in Brady and Payton certainly would’ve precluded them from being able to make the moves they’ve made since the rumors started, moves that have taken them from 5-11 in 2019 to two consecutive winning seasons in 2020 & 2021. Would they have had the picks to draft young contributors like Tua Tagovailoa, Austin Jackson, Robert Hunt, Raekwon Davis, Jaylen Waddle, Jaelan Phillips, Jevon Holland, or Liam Eichenberg? Or the draft capital to acquire star wide receiver Tyreek Hill?
Bringing Payton and Brady in to lead an empty cupboard likely wouldn’t have put them in a favorable position back in 2020. Bringing them in now makes a lot more sense, but is way more difficult to make happen. Still, as long as Payton still wants to coach and Brady still wants to play, these rumors will likely persist into the next few offseasons.
For a second straight offseason, the Buccaneers are adjusting Tom Brady‘s contract. They agreed to a restructure with the recently unretired superstar Friday, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.
Details are not fully available, but this move is expected to create around $9MM in cap space for the Bucs. Like last year, Tampa Bay has brought back a few key free agents. This restructure could allow the NFC South champs to retain more talent. Rob Gronkowski, Ndamukong Suh and Jason Pierre-Paul are still unsigned.
Brady’s 2021 extension already tacked on three void years to his deal, which technically runs through 2025. The Bucs may well have added more void years, but Brady did not add any actual years via this restructure. He remains on track for free agency in 2023, though it is obviously uncertain if the future first-ballot Hall of Famer will opt to play an age-46 season.
The Bucs already have Brady tied to a $24MM cap hit in 2023, via the previous void-year arrangement. Whether Brady plays for the Bucs next year or not, he will carry a “significant” cap hit because of this latest adjustment, The Athletic’s Greg Auman tweets. Brady is on the Bucs’ books at $20.2MM this year.
Brady unretired just before free agency, with the move preceding Bruce Arians‘ mid-offseason exit. The Bucs have been connected to re-signing Suh and Gronkowski, though the latter has not committed to return just yet.
There were recent whispers that Brady considered joining the Dolphins as both a minority owner and their starting quarterback. While it sounds like Brady’s committed to Tampa Bay for the upcoming campaign, his pending free agency has naturally led to speculation about whether he could eventually continue his career elsewhere.
When speaking with reporters today, general manager Jason Licht said he hasn’t had any discussions with Brady about an extension, and he hasn’t talk with the quarterback about Miami’s pursuit.
“No, we haven’t had those discussions,” said Licht (via ESPN’s Jenna Laine). “The only discussions I’ve had, we’ve had, with Tom has been, he came back and we’re excited about this year and we’re excited to get going.”
And what did the executive make of the recent chatter connecting Brady to the Dolphins?
“I make of it — chatter, just like you said,” Licht said. “We’re focused on putting our team together here with the draft, and we’re all excited, we’re all in lockstep here — Tom, Todd [Bowles], myself, Byron [Leftwich], the entire coaching staff — on this season.”
Of course, we wouldn’t expect Licht to say anything about the Dolphins’ reported pursuit of Brady. However, it is notable that the two sides haven’t discussed an extension. Brady will be 45 by the start of the next season, and after having flirted with retirement this offseason, the quarterback’s lame-duck contract could just be an indication that he’ll hang it up following next season. However, if you adjust that tinfoil hat a bit, you could argue that the future Hall of Famer’s one-year contract provides the Dolphins with another path to pursue him in 2023.
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk continues to beat the Tom Brady-to-Miami drum. In January 2020, just weeks before Brady was set to hit free agency and perhaps join an organization other than the Patriots for the first time in his two-decade career, Florio wrote that the Dolphins were the team that was generating the most buzz with respect to a Brady signing. Even then, the PFT creator reported that there was talk of Brady also becoming a minority owner of the ‘Fins.
In February 2022, Florio wrote that Miami hoped to hire former Saints head coach Sean Payton as its new HC this year, and that the club also planned to go after Brady and install him as the starting quarterback. Then, Brian Flores, who was fired as the Dolphins’ head coach in January, filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the team, also naming the Giants and Broncos as defendants. According to Florio, the suit forced the Dolphins to scrap the Payton/Brady plan, and Brady announced his retirement on the same day the suit was filed.
Several days ago, Florio reported that Brady was indeed “very close” to joining the Dolphins, and that he would have first done so as a minority owner (other reporters have echoed the sentiment that Brady may want to own a part of the franchise). At that point, the Dolphins would have acquired Payton’s rights from the Saints and Brady’s rights from the Buccaneers and would have had the enviable HC-QB tandem they were seeking all along. Of course, it may not have been so simple; Florio acknowledged in his February 2022 piece that New Orleans declined Miami’s request to talk to Payton, even after Payton elected to step away from the Saints. Dolphins GM Chris Grierconfirmed as much, and Payton himself said he would probably not have been interested in the Miami gig.
If Florio is accurate, however, this could all resurface in 2023. When discussing the ownership component of these rumors, Florio continues to emphasize Brady’s close relationship with Bruce Beal, who is Dolphins owner Stephen Ross‘ right-hand man. As far as Brady the player is concerned, it’s worth noting that one of Flores’ allegations in his suit is that Ross wanted Flores to recruit a “prominent quarterback” — generally believed to be Brady — at the end of the 2019 season, which would have contravened the league’s tampering rules.
So, if Brady wants to continue his playing career next year but wants to leave the Bucs — Florio remains adamant that Brady’s “retirement” was simply an attempt to leave Tampa and that he only circled back to the team after it became clear he would not be able to join the Dolphins or 49ers — then perhaps Ross will throw his hat in the ring again, depending on how Tua Tagovailoa performs in 2022. And, regardless of whether Brady ever plays his home games in South Beach, it at least seems like a strong possibility that he could one day own a piece of the Dolphins.
With Mike McDaniel having just been hired as Miami’s HC, it is perhaps less likely that Ross & Co. will seek to woo Payton next year, but given Ross’ history of seeking high-profile candidates for his head coaching post, such a pursuit probably should not be ruled out.
BruceArians‘ stint on the sidelines has come to an end. Peter King of Football Morning in America reports that the Buccaneers head coach is stepping down and will take a front office role with the organization. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles will take over in Arians’ place. The Buccaneers have announced the move, adding that Arians will take on the role of “Senior Football Consultant.”
“[S]uccession has always been huge for me,” Arians told King. “With the organization in probably the best shape it’s been in its history, with Tom Brady coming back … I’d rather see Todd in position to be successful and not have to take some [crappy] job. I’m probably retiring next year anyway, in February. So, I control the narrative right now. I don’t control it next February because [if] Brady gets hurt, we go 10-7, and it’s an open interview for the job … I got 31 [coaches and their] families that depend on me. My wife is big on not letting all those families down.”
Arians also admitted that he considered retiring following the Buccaneers Super Bowl-winning 2020 season. Now, with Bowles still with the organization and Brady returning for another season (despite a brief retirement), Arians thought this was the appropriate time to step away from the sideline. As Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times tweets, Brady’s return helped “cement” Arians’ decision, as he wanted to hand over a championship-caliber team to his defensive coordinator. Arians said that his decision wasn’t health-related.
“It hit me after the Super Bowl,” Arians told King. “I thought really hard about going out on top. Then it was like, nah, let’s go for two. [The 2021 season] was a grind with all the injuries but still winning and getting to where we got. Immediately after, two to three weeks afterwards [I thought] … if I quit, my coaches get fired. I couldn’t do it then.
“Tom was kind of the key. When Tom decided to come back … and all of these guys back now, it’s the perfect timing for me just to go into the front office and still have the relationships that I love.”
While Arians is saying all of the right things, it may be tough for some to take these statements at face value. Before Brady reversed his retirement decision, there were reports that the QB and his head coach didn’t see eye to eye regarding the offensive game plan. Citing those issues, some pundits were stunned when Brady decided to return to Tampa Bay for another season. While we’ll never know one way or the other, it’s easy to wonder if Brady’s return was connected to Arians’ “decision” to step down. As King notes, today’s news will “increase the influence of offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich and Brady on game plans and play-calling,” so the future Hall of Fame QB will get his way, after all.
Arians, who will turn 70 in October, will finish his coaching career with a 80-48 record, including a 6-3 postseason record. Four of those playoff victories came during that Super Bowl season in 2020. Arians also had stints as the offensive coordinator with the Browns, Steelers, and Colts.
There were previous rumblings that Arians wanted Bowles to take over as head coach, but the accomplished defensive coordinator still flirted with head coaching vacancies around the NFL. Following an up-and-down stint as the Jets head coach, Bowlers was hired as the defensive coordinator in Tampa Bay in 2019. He has helped turned the Buccaneers’ defensive line into one of the best in the NFL. The Bucs ranked first in rushing yards allowed in both 2019 and 2020, and the defense has been top-10 in points allowed since the beginning of the 2020 season.
Today’s move will now open a hole at defensive coordinator. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter). the likely scenario is that inside linebackers coach LarryFoote and defensive line coach KacyRodgers will split defensive coordinator duties.
The Brady effect has started already and it is strong. Buccaneers center Ryan Jensen was poised for quite the pay day on the free agent market this week, but, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Jensen has agreed to a three-year, $39MM deal returning him to Tampa Bay.
Drafted by the Ravens in the sixth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, Jensen was released, signed to the practice squad, and then eventually promoted to full-time starter over the first four years of his career. After one season as the starting center in Baltimore, Jensen signed a four-year, $42MM contract with the Buccaneers that made him the highest-paid center in the NFL at the time. The new deal makes Jensen the second-highest-paid center in the NFL now behind only Frank Ragnow, who averages $13.5MM per year. Jensen’s new contract has a guaranteed amount of $23MM at signing, with a potential $3.3MM of incentives.
Jensen’s efforts in Tampa Bay last year were rewarded with a Pro Bowl appearance. He didn’t have his best season according to Pro Football Focus, who graded him out as the league’s 14th-best center. But Jensen hasn’t missed a game in five straight seasons and he should be able to replace the leadership on the offensive line lost with the retirement of Ali Marpet. Who knows? The return of Jensen and quarterback Tom Brady may have some influence in bringing back right guard Alex Cappa, set to hit free agency this week, and maybe even Marpet, who retired at 28-years-old.
Regardless of what else may come in Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers and Brady will be happy to see the return of their Pro Bowl center. Center-quarterback chemistry is an important dynamic on an NFL offense and, some may remember, Jensen already knows just the right techniques to keep his butt sweat-free, just the way his quarterback prefers it.
It looks like the Buccaneers’ quarterback questions have been answered for now. Get comfortable, Kyle Trask, you’ve got a bit longer to wait. After 40 days of retirement, Tom Brady has announced he will return for his 23rd season of NFL football in a tweet this evening. He announced he has unfinished business in Tampa after the team lost in the Divisional Round of the playoffs last year to the eventual-Super Bowl Champion Rams.
Some details will need to be hashed out as Brady still had four years on his contract, with all years after 2022 being voided upon his retirement. Past that, Tampa Bay has several offensive pieces set to become unrestricted free agents including center Ryan Jensen, tight ends Rob Gronkowski and O.J. Howard, and running backs Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones II, and Giovani Bernard. If they are going to attempt another glory run, these loose ends will need to be tied up.
In response to the news, no one is more happy to see the quarterback return than Rams’ cornerback Jalen Ramsey who was set to spend eternity as the last person to have Tom Brady throw a touchdown on them. On the other hand, no one is less happy to see the quarterback return than the unfortunate big-spender who just dropped $518,000 at an auction in a bid to receive Tom Brady’s final touchdown ball. Looks like there will be many other balls getting thrown past many other defensive backs before Brady retires again.
The Buccaneers cruised on Super Wild Card Weekend to a mostly stress-free victory over the Eagles in January. While they were all smiles on the field, in the locker room, Pro Bowl right tackle Tristan Wirfs was preparing himself for a lengthy recovery. Wirfs left the game early in the first quarter with an apparent ankle injury and, soon after, found out that he had suffered two torn ligaments, including one off the bone, and was initially thought to need surgery to repair his ankle.
Here are some other notes from the NFC South, starting with another note from central Florida:
According to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, head coach Bruce Arians has announced that quarterback Kyle Traskwill be given a legitimate chance to replaceTom Brady in training camp. With the retirement of Brady leaving the position behind center wide open for the taking, the second-year player out of the nearby University of Florida will attempt to show his worth as the team’s second-round pick from last year. Veteran Blaine Gabbert spent the 2021 season as Brady’s primary backup, but he is heading back to the free agent market, unless Arians and company decide to bring him back. As of right now, Trask is the only active quarterback on contract in Tampa Bay. It has yet to be seen whom his competition will be.
On Monday, news dropped that the University of Alabama’s director of sports science, Dr. Matt Rhea, is expected to join the staff in New Orleans, according to Josh Pate of CBS Sports. Rhea has worked with the Tide for two years after a similar stint on staff with the Indiana Hoosiers. He also brings with him 13 years of experience as a strength and conditioning coach.
The Panthers acquired former Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore via a trade with the Patriots last season. After overcoming an early quad injury to start the season, Gilmore put forth an impressive performance in eight games for Carolina. The Panthers would love to bring Gilmore back on a new deal, but, with Gilmore expected to draw offers up to $14MM, he is expected to test free agency, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.