After less than six weeks of retirement, it appears that Tom Brady is back.
Brady, the 44-year-old quarterback who has won the Super Bowl seven times, wrote on his social media accounts Sunday evening that he would return to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to play his 23rd N.F.L. season.
“These past two months I’ve realized my place is still on the field and not in the stands,” Brady wrote.
Brady announced his retirement in early February, saying he didn’t have the competitive fire to continue. But in the days since, he has made a number of ambiguous comments about his future. On Saturday, he attended a soccer match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. United is owned by the Glazer family, which also owns the Buccaneers. The United star Cristiano Ronaldo was seen in a video asking Brady, “You’re finished, right?”
It wasn’t clear from the video how Brady responded to Ronaldo, but his posts to Twitter and Instagram on Sunday seemed to be a resounding no.
The Buccaneers and Brady’s agent, Don Yee, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Buccaneers had left open the possibility that Brady could return all along. After their playoff exit in January, Coach Bruce Arians made it clear that any decision about retirement belonged to Brady, but that the team wanted him back. “Whenever Tom wants to come back, he’s back,” Arians said at the scouting combine in March. “If Tom wants to come back, we’ll have plenty of money for him.”
The Buccaneers lost in the divisional round of the playoffs to the Los Angeles Rams, 30-27, on a last-second field goal, after being down by as many as 24 points earlier in the game. Facing an off-season in which 24 players could become unrestricted free agents, the team placed the franchise tag on receiver Chris Godwin, one of Brady’s favorite targets out of the lot, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament in December.
Without Godwin and Antonio Brown, whom the team cut in January, and injuries to the defensive secondary, the Buccaneers (13-4) struggled to mount a defense of their 2020 championship season.
Brady’s quick reversal puts the Buccaneers in a much better position on Monday, when teams can begin talking to and signing free agents. They will not have to search for a new starting quarterback, and they will be able to tell their own free agents — including key contributors like Rob Gronkowski and Ndamukong Suh — as well as other potential signings that the team will still be helmed by one of the league’s best quarterbacks.
Even with Brady’s return, the team has a number of holes to fill in free agency and the draft.
Any team with Brady will be competitive, but Buccaneers General Manager Jason Licht will have to be creative in constructing a roster capable of another Super Bowl appearance. The team is $3 million over the salary cap, according to the salary website Spotrac.
Brady’s unretirement capped a momentous stretch for quarterbacks that is likely to shape the N.F.L. next season. Aaron Rodgers, the league’s reigning most valuable player, re-signed with the Green Bay Packers, while the Seattle Seahawks plan to trade Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos for a package that includes draft picks.
Deshaun Watson, who did not play for the Houston Texans last season while dealing with 22 civil lawsuits that accuse him of sexual misconduct, will not be criminally charged in Houston after a grand jury declined to indict him on Friday, though the suits remain active.