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Tom Brady to take time away before making decision on future; Buccaneers players feel he's leaving

Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady plans to take his time making a decision on his future, aiming to look at his options with a clear mind.

Yet several players already have a feeling which direction he is leaning. Based on their final interactions with Brady, it felt to them as if Brady was leaving Tampa with no intention to return.

One said, "I'd be surprised if he's back."

Another opined, "He sounded like a person saying goodbye for good."

Brady also sounded a similar refrain to media members in his final press conference on Monday. "I just want to say thank you guys for everything this year," he said, noting his love for the organization and how grateful he was for the respect.

Nothing final. But to those who listened intently, it felt a lot like goodbye.

According to those close to him, Brady wants to head into his few weeks of decision-making time with an open mind. He'll attempt to spend time with his children, allow the emotions to hit him and consider his options.

The options are as follows:

  • Play again for the Bucs, which is appearing less and less likely based on these accounts.
  • Retire at age 45 as he always planned. He also apparently has a 10-year, $375-million deal with Fox Sports awaiting when he's ready.
  • Play for another team after signing as a free agent, similar to the 2020 offseason. Among the teams potentially in the running are the Raiders, 49ers, Titans and others.

Following a disappointing season that saw Tampa Bay end with a humbling playoff loss, Brady exited the locker room with a goal of making no decisions. Perhaps he'll listen to his own advice when asked on his SiriusXM podcast, Let's Go! about what he would tell Aaron Rodgers.

"I think the most important thing is the day after the season," Brady said. "And I made this mistake -- is not to decide the future."

Earlier in the week, Buccaneers coach Todd Bowles fired offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, a coach who Brady likes immensely. What's not entirely clear is how that will affect Brady's decision. Overall frustration with the offense was clear, but Tampa also had a woeful offensive line and issues all around.

While Brady struggled in his final game, going 35 of a season-high 66 passes for 351 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, he did so with almost no running game. A source says his arm strength, based on velocity, has not waned.

Either way, the Bucs' situation changes dramatically if Brady opts not to return to Tampa. They'll not only have a new OC, but will incur a $35.1-million cap hit when his contract automatically voids on March 15 -- the second-largest cap hit in NFL history if it remains untouched. Plus, they would need a quarterback.

Retiring would be more palatable, with Tampa Bay able to sign Brady to a new deal to push some of the money past June 1.

While Brady takes time to make a decision, the Buccaneers will find a new OC -- and wait.

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