Why Tom Brady will still count against the Bucs' salary cap even after his retirement

Tom Brady's retirement could significantly impact the Buccaneers' salary cap for the next two seasons.

Brady announced his retirement (again) on Wednesday and said that he was done “for good” this time. After he retired and unretired following the 2021 season, Brady’s 2022 compensation was $15 million.

That $15 million deal for 2022 came after Brady signed a two-year deal worth $50 million with the Bucs after he left the New England Patriots. But since a lot of Brady’s money with the Buccaneers was deferred, he’ll still be on Tampa Bay’s books for 2023 and likely the 2024 season too.

Had Brady kept playing football and signed with another team, he would have counted $35 million against the Buccaneers' salary cap in 2023. Since he's retiring, the Buccaneers can spread that cap hit out over two seasons thanks to some administrative maneuvering instead of having it all count against the 2023 cap.

That contract adjusting will likely mean that Brady will count approximately $11 million toward the Bucs’ salary cap in 2023 before counting $24 million against the team’s cap in 2024. While that 2024 cap hit is still fairly daunting, having the $35 million spread across two years is a better financial outcome for Tampa Bay than it is if it all counted against the 2023 cap.

Tampa is way over the 2023 salary cap

A big reason the Bucs need to split Brady’s cap impact over the next two seasons is because of how much the team is currently over the salary cap. Even with Brady counting $11 million against the cap in 2023, the Buccaneers still need to trim and adjust over $30 million worth of contracts to be cap compliant.

This isn’t a surprise for Tampa Bay either. As soon as Brady joined the team in 2020 the Buccaneers knew they had to maximize every opportunity they had to win a Super Bowl with Brady. The team immediately planned for the present after Brady became a Buc and those moves paid off with a Super Bowl win in Brady’s first season.

But the cost of that short-term planning was a lean year or two when the window closed. And now that the Brady window appears to be closed, the Bucs have some big decisions to make ahead of the 2023 season. But a few moves can get Tampa Bay under the cap.

Thanks to Spotrac's great salary cap manager feature, we can hypothetically manipulate the Bucs' salary cap situation for the upcoming season. With Brady's cap hit at approximately $11 million and a restructure of WR Chris Godwin's deal, the Bucs can save over $30 million from where they are currently. With the offensive line a priority to rebuild, a release of Donovan Smith could save the Buccaneers nearly $10 million and releasing Shaq Mason would save Tampa Bay $5 million.

The team could also choose to restructure CB Carlton Davis’ deal and save nearly $7 million and redo RB Leonard Fournette’s deal to save a few million there. If all of those moves happen — remember, this is just a hypothetical exercise — the Bucs would have approximately $11 million in salary cap space available for 2023, though the restructured contracts would impact the salary cap in future seasons.