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Throwing money at Tom Brady suddenly seems prudent

TAMPA — I’m right here to repent. I’m right here to transform.

I’m right here to acknowledge the surprise of Tom Brady is larger than I ever imagined.

At the moment a 12 months in the past, I wrote that Tampa Bay’s signing of Brady was superb, daring and thrilling. These had been my precise phrases. I additionally wrote that it was nuts as a result of the one means it made sense to signal a 43-year-old quarterback was should you had been sure he was taking you to the Tremendous Bowl.

So, um, who’s the nut now?

Final week, the Bucs signed Brady to another contract that makes it seemingly he can have a spot of their huddle for one more two seasons. Now the concept of a 45-year-old quarterback immediately appears each considerate and clever.

That’s how good Brady is. He makes you rethink the borders of chance.

Regardless of how this story ultimately performs out, bringing Brady to Tampa Bay in 2020 will at all times be considered as an impressed gamble by coach Bruce Arians and common supervisor Jason Licht. It didn’t simply result in a Lombardi Trophy, it additionally modified the notion of a franchise.

So does that imply final week’s contract extension is equally impressed? Time, and one other postseason, will inform. However it’s not practically as huge of a chance as final season, though the Bucs have now dedicated themselves to a quarterback of unprecedented age by 2022.

That’s as a result of we now know Brady’s subpar season in New England in 2019 had extra to do with the expertise surrounding him than age catching as much as him. We additionally know that Brady’s success was in no way depending on the Patriot means of doing issues.

This time, the gamble is extra about future days. What the Bucs have finished with Brady’s contract extension is given themselves an honest shot at returning to the Tremendous Bowl within the upcoming season by borrowing from wage caps within the years to come back.

Basically, they gave Brady what he wished — an additional assured season value one other $25 million — then tacked on a number of phantom seasons and manipulated the phrases of his precise payouts. All of this was finished to considerably scale back his wage cap hit in 2021-22, whereas shifting a few of the burden to the wage cap in 2023-24 when there’s an honest probability he shall be retired.

That’s form of like enjoying poker with a bank card, which isn’t actually advisable and it’s one thing the Bucs have prevented doing for years. However when you’ve gotten probably the most recognizable participant on the planet in your billboards and a legit probability at defending a Tremendous Bowl title, you may make a reasonably sturdy case that the gamble is value it.

Clearly, that doesn’t imply it’ll work precisely as deliberate. The Saints equally manipulated Drew Brees’ contract in recent times and, whereas he led them to the NFC South crown in 2020, his 42-year-old physique was fairly banged up by the point the playoffs rolled round and the Bucs eradicated them within the division spherical.

Now that Brees has introduced his retirement, New Orleans shall be on the hook for about $11.1 million in wasted wage cap house for every of the subsequent two seasons.

Sooner or later sooner or later, the Bucs shall be going through the same state of affairs. However the tradeoff is that they get to maintain Brady for one more two seasons and, by artificially reducing his wage cap hit for 2021, that they had sufficient cash to carry Shaquil Barrett, Chis Godwin, Lavonte David, Rob Gronkowski and others again.

There’s an opportunity the Bucs may do extra wage cap manipulations within the coming days to create much more house — David and Barrett already included voidable years on their contracts — which might assist their 2021 probabilities whereas making the long run look much more bleak.

For now, nevertheless, the sunburn from the Tremendous Bowl boat parade remains to be fairly candy. And the recollections of how Brady reimagined an offense and impressed a locker room will reside on for fairly a while.

If you have a look at it that means, committing one other season to a quarterback in his mid-40s doesn’t appear so outlandish. You may even say the Bucs would have been nuts to not do it.

John Romano could be reached at jromano@tampabay.com. Comply with @romano_tbtimes.

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