Why Tom Brady will still count against the Bucs salary cap even after he retires

Tom Brady’s retirement could have a significant impact on the Buccaneers’ salary cap for the next two seasons.

Brady announced his retirement (again) on Wednesday and said this time he was done “for good.” After he retired and did not retire after the 2021 season, Brady’s 2022 fee was $15 million.

That $15 million deal for 2022 came after Brady signed a two-year deal worth $50 million with the Bucs after leaving the New England Patriots. But since much of Brady’s money with the Buccaneers has been deferred, he will still be on Tampa Bay’s books for 2023 and possibly the 2024 season as well.

Had Brady continued playing football and signed with another team, he would have counted $35 million against the Buccaneers’ salary cap in 2023. Since he’s retiring, the Buccaneers can spread that cap over two seasons thanks to some administrative maneuvers instead of counting everything towards the 2023 limit.

The contract adjustment will likely mean Brady will count about $11 million toward the Bucs’ 2023 salary cap before counting $24 million against the team’s 2024 cap. While that 2024 cap is still daunting enough, with the $35 million spread over two years is a better financial outcome for Tampa Bay than it would be if everything counted towards the 2023 cap.

Tampa has far exceeded the 2023 salary cap

A big reason the Bucs have to split the impact of Brady’s cap over the next couple of seasons is because of how far over the salary cap the team is currently. Even with Brady counting $11 million against the cap in 2023, the Buccaneers still need to cut and adjust more than $30 million worth of contracts to comply with the cap.

This is also no surprise for Tampa Bay. As soon as Brady joined the team in 2020, the Buccaneers knew they had to maximize every opportunity they had to win a Super Bowl under Brady. The team immediately made plans for the present after Brady became a Buc and those moves paid off with a Super Bowl win in Brady’s first season.

But the cost of that short-term planning was a lean year or two when the window closed. And now that the Brady window appears to be closed, the Bucs have some big decisions to make heading into the 2023 season. But a few moves can bring Tampa Bay under the line.

Thanks to Spotrac’s great salary cap management feature, we can hypothetically manipulate the Bucs’ salary cap situation for next season. With Brady’s cap hit to about $11 million and a restructuring of WR Chris Godwin’s deal, the Bucs can save over $30 million from where they currently are. With the offensive line a priority to rebuild, a Donovan Smith release could save the Buccaneers nearly $10 million and the release of Shaq Mason would save Tampa Bay $5 million.

The team could also choose to restructure CB Carlton Davis’ deal and save nearly $7 million and redo RB Leonard Fournette’s deal to save a few million there. If all of these moves happen — remember, this is just a hypothetical exercise — the Bucs would have approximately $11 million of salary cap space available for 2023, even if the restructured contracts would impact the salary cap in future seasons.

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 16: Tom Brady #1  12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers throws a pass against the Dallas Cowboys during the second half of the NFC Wild Card playoff game at Raymond James Stadium on January 16, 2023 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Tom Brady will still count against the Bucs salary cap in 2023 even if he is retired. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

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