Brady not thinking about retirement, so time to speculate

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) gives signals at the line of scrimmage during the first half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
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AP Pro Football Writer

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Tom Brady says retirement isn’t in his future, so let the 2023 speculation begin. Brady’s comment Thursday doesn’t mean he’s coming back for a 24th season but anything is possible for the 45-year-old, seven-time Super Bowl champion.

Right now, Brady is focused on trying to get the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-3) on the winning track after three losses in the last four games. Brady and the Bucs haven’t found a rhythm yet and he’s getting more attention for tossing tablets, chewing out teammates and attending a wedding.

But Brady isn’t quitting on the Bucs midseason — not that anyone thought he would.

“I love the sport and I love the teammates,” Brady said. “I want to go do a great job for this team like I always have. No retirement in my future.”

If Brady — who retired this past spring before changing his mind — decides to keep playing, he’ll be a free agent after the season.

Here are eight potential teams for No. 12 next year:

BUCCANEERS: Brady returned to Tampa Bay after a 40-day retirement because of “unfinished business” after winning a Super Bowl in his first season with the Buccaneers and falling short in the divisional round last season. So far, it’s been a struggle because his offensive line has been depleted by injuries and Ali Marpet’s retirement, receivers have been hurt and Rob Gronkowski retired. But it’s way too soon to write off the Buccaneers. They’re still the team to beat in the NFC South and should improve as players start returning from injuries. In 2020, the Buccaneers were 7-5 before running the table and winning the Super Bowl. Brady will want to play for a contender and Tampa Bay would seem to give him that opportunity, plus he’d have familiarity.

“I think everything’s unique,” Brady said. “Every year’s different. Every football season is a little bit different. There’s different challenges. We’ve just got to work hard. We’re certainly not a finished product. We’ve got to work hard to make the improvements we have to make, and that’s what going out to practice is all about, and having great communication with your teammates and trying to get things headed in a better direction.”

49ERS: Returning to the Bay Area and closing out his career playing for the team he grew up rooting for would be a storybook ending for Brady. Jimmy Garoppolo will be a free agent and inexperienced Trey Lance will be returning from injury and would certainly benefit learning from Brady for a year. The 49ers just added running back Christian McCaffrey and should be a contender, so they’re the top option outside Tampa.

DOLPHINS: Owner Stephen Ross was fined and suspended for tampering with Brady while he was with New England and Tampa. Miami also had discussions with Brady about becoming a partner in the team. Before sustaining a concussion, Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was excellent during a 3-0 start. The Dolphins might not have the biggest need but they clearly wanted Brady enough to violate NFL rules already.

GIANTS: Rookie coach Brian Daboll has New York off to a 5-1 start and quarterback Daniel Jones has played well. But the former first-round pick will become a free agent after the season and the Giants may be in a position where they’re a QB away from contention. Enter Brady. He couldn’t beat them in the Super Bowl twice, so why not join them?

SAINTS: They wanted Deshaun Watson before re-signing Jameis Winston and adding Andy Dalton. The Saints have weapons at wide receiver but they have too many overall needs.

TITANS: Brady is close to Titans coach Mike Vrabel. Ryan Tannehill is owed $36.6 million in 2023 but Tennessee could save $17.8 million against the cap by trading or cutting him before next June 1. If Derrick Henry stays healthy, the Titans are attractive.

COMMANDERS: They would save $26 million by releasing Carson Wentz. Brady may be the only person who could save owner Dan Snyder and fill the seats in Washington.

PANTHERS: They’ll need a QB but even the GOAT can’t turn Carolina into a championship team.