Tom Brady authored one of the great comebacks in playoff history Sunday, helping the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to erase a 27-3 deficit against the Los Angeles Rams to pull even late in the fourth quarter.
Unfortunately for Brady and the defending Super Bowl Champions, Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp connected twice in the waning moments of the fourth quarter, setting up a game-winning field goal by Matt Gay and the Rams.
And now, the discussion pivots to the future of the 44-year-old. Reports from both CBS' Jason La Canfora and ESPN's Adam Schefter and Jeff Darlington this weekend suggested that some believe Brady will contemplate retirement now that his 22nd NFL season is over.
Following a crushing 30-27 loss, the three-time NFL MVP wasn't especially interested in discussing his NFL future, one way or another.
“I haven’t put a lot of thought into it so we’ll take it day-by-day and kind of see where we’re at. I was thinking about winning. That’s kind of my mentality, always to go out there and try to win, give my team the best chance to win.”
When Rob Maaddi of The Associated Press followed up with Brady, he reiterated that he didn't want to talk about the future.
"Truthfully guys, I'm thinking about this game. I'm not thinking about past five minutes from now."
Brady is set to make $25.4 million in 2022, which would be his third season in Tampa Bay. A seven-time Super Bowl Champion, Brady has talked throughout the course of his career about playing through his age-45 season, if not longer. Brady led the NFL with 43 touchdown passes and 5,316 passing yards in 2021, so unless he's burned out, there's no reason to think that he couldn't continue playing for at least a few more years.
Head coach Bruce Arians -- who probably isn't far off from retirement himself -- said that it's "up to Tom" when asked about the quarterback's future after the game. Wide receiver Mike Evans added that he was "super appreciative" that Brady came to Tampa Bay after 20 seasons with the New England Patriots, and that he won't try to talk Brady into coming back for the 2022 season because "he's self-motivated."
The Buccaneers, according to Over The Cap, will have approximately $19.4 million in salary cap space to work with this offseason. However, Chris Godwin, Jason Pierre-Paul, Ryan Jensen, Rob Gronkowski, Leonard Fournette, Ndamukong Suh, William Gholston, Ronald Jones II and Giovani Bernard can all become free agents this offseason, so that money could go pretty quickly.
General manager Jason Licht and company would be hard-pressed to put together a roster as good as the one they had in 2021 next season. If Brady believes he will play three or four more years in Tampa Bay, he could very well go through a bit of a retool. However, the 44-year-old is only under contract for one more season, and may not be keen on potentially taking a step back in 2022.