Tom Brady’s retirement announcement will have lasting implications for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for years to come. But the most immediate concern is how it impacts the Bucs salary cap as they navigate the offseason. Tampa Bay has a plethora of in-house pending free agents to re-sign, not to mention additional players to bring into the fold. Many Bucs fans have heard that Brady’s contract will cost the Bucs against the salary cap both this year and next. But how?
Let’s start with his current contract. Currently, Tom Brady remains on the Bucs roster with a cap charge of $20,270,588 for the 2022 season. That cap charge has three components. First, a non-guaranteed base salary of $8.925M. Second, a guaranteed prorated signing bonus of $8M. And third, a roster bonus of $1,470,588 for the new 17th game per season, as well as $1.875M likely to be earned bonus based on his performance last year.
It is important to note that after this season Brady would have been a free agent, but would have cost the Bucs $24M against the cap due to the rest of the proration of his signing bonus from his contract restructure at the end of the 2021 season through the use of void years.
Bucs VP of football administration – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
If Tampa Bay were to immediately place Brady on the reserve-retired list, or release him, his base salary, roster bonus and incentives would all void. That would leave just Brady’s $8M prorated signing bonus as the only cap charge this year. However, that action would also accelerate the post-2022 prorations to this year, leaving the Bucs with a $32M dead cap charge. This would severely hamper Tampa Bay’s ability to re-sign the rest of their priority free agents.
This is why you haven’t seen the team make any transaction with Brady yet. Instead, the Bucs can reduce Brady’s cap charge with a couple possible moves.
Post-June 1st Cut/Retirement
Ultimately the Bucs will most likely wait until June 2nd to place Brady on the reserve-retirement list or outright cut him. The reason for this is a clause in the NFL CBA that allows for accounting rules changes for players let go from contracts that extend multiple years.
How this applies to Brady’s contract is that it will allow the Bucs to only have the 2022 $8M prorated signing bonus hit this year’s cap, and deferring the $24M allocated to the 2023-2025 void years to be charged to the 2023 cap. This will ultimately give the Bucs $12.3 million in cap savings for the 2022 season. But we aren’t there yet.
What happens between now and June 1st?
Bucs GM Jason Licht and QB Tom Brady – Photo by: USA Today
As it stands right now, the Bucs must account for Brady’s current cap charge until they make the procedural move on June 2nd. However, Tampa Bay can lighten that cap number a substantial amount with one or two simple moves.
The Bucs can restructure Brady’s base salary (with his permission) from the current $8.925M to the veteran minimum of $1.12M. They could also ask Brady to agree to drop his roster bonus and incentives on top of that. All of this would represent over $11 million in cap savings for the Bucs. This would go a long way toward helping them build their 2022 roster.
Then, once June 2nd arrives, the team would process his retirement and gain an additional $1.12M in cap savings. That move would lower Brady’s cap charge to the aforementioned $8M. Expect to see some form of these moves in the coming days.