Tom Brady Had 15 Million Good Reasons to Kill That Retirement Report

Now it all makes sense. Also, dollars and cents.

For a brief, jaw-dropping moment on Saturday, Adam Schefter’s tweet announcing Tom Brady’s retirement sent the sports world all a-twitter. The greatest quarterback of all time hanging up his cleats after 22 seasons and seven Super Bowl titles was the biggest NFL story of the year, and breaking news alerts lit up cell phones and devices all over the world.

The breaking news of Brady’s retirement certainly wasn’t a shock – Brady himself has been hinting at such a prospect from the moment the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were eliminated from the NFL Playoffs by the Los Angeles Rams last Sunday. Even Brady’s health and wellness business, TB12 Sports seemed to confirm Schefter’s report with its own tweet congratulating Brady on his retirement.

But the way the news came out Saturday seemed highly unusual. Three days after Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger owned the announcement of his retirement with a social media message, why was Brady’s news not coming directly from him?

The air was effectively taken out of the Brady retirement story. But why?

The mystery only deepened over the next few hours Saturday, as one Brady surrogate after another went public to say that no, Brady had not made a decision and that critically, the Buccaneers had not been informed.

The original tweet from TB12 Sports was quickly deleted, and Brady’s father, Tom Brady Sr., began offering statements to various media outlets that his son had made no such decision.

“This story Mike is total conjecture,” Brady Sr. told Mike Giardi of NFL Network. “Tommy has not made a final decision one way or the other and anybody else that says that he has is absolutely wrong.”

Later Saturday, Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians confirmed that Brady had informed the team that his mind had not been made up. Nothing was official.

“No, he hasn’t that we know of,” Arians told Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. “Agent [Donald Yee] just told us he hasn’t made up his mind.”

It all gave the appearance of an effort to try and walk back the premature tweets and reports to give Brady the opportunity to reclaim the news cycle, as Roethlisberger had done, and make the announcement on his own terms.

But, more likely, it was the terms of Brady’s contract with the Buccaneers that was driving events.

Brady’s agent offers the biggest clue to the real reason Brady walked the story back

Of all the statements and quotes that came out Saturday on Brady’s behalf, and conspicuously without any comment from Brady directly, it was the statement released by Brady’s agent Don Yee, that gave up the game.

“I understand the advance speculation about Tom’s future,” Yee said in a statement issued to media outlets. “Without getting into the accuracy or inaccuracy of what’s being reported, Tom will be the only person to express his plans with complete accuracy. He knows the realities of the football business and planning calendar as well as anybody, so that should be soon.”

The key words in that statement are “planning calendar.”

While it makes perfect sense that Brady wants to control the media narrative and make the announcement on his terms, a la Roethlisberger, there is a financial incentive in play, as well, which explains why Yee mentioned “the realities of the football business.”

Don’t let anyone fool you. It’s big, big business.

The devil is in the details of Brady’s contract with the Buccaneers

The sports contract website, Spotrac.com, put the entire retirement fiasco in proper context even as the conflicting reports were flying about on Saturday. At 4:41 p.m. ET Saturday, Spotrac co-founder Michael Ginnitti tweeted:

“FWIW: $15M of Tom Brady’s $20M signing bonus from last March is set to be paid out February 4th, 2022. Seems like something a guy or gal would want to have process before making any life-changing career decisions official.”

And there it was.

It is likely, if not certain, that Brady has indeed made the decision to retire, and had already communicated that decision to some people in orbit. Whether anyone in the Buccaneers’ front office was part of that orbit or not, it is equally likely that Brady was not going to formally make his decision until after that $15 million hit his bank account. So when someone in that orbit leaked the news to Schefter, it set off the panicked response from Team Tom.

Because by announcing his retirement formally before Friday, it would put the $15 million in jeopardy of being withheld by the Buccaneers, as would be their right.

So when Schefter tweeted out his report Saturday that Brady had retired, Brady’s surrogates were forced to backtrack immediately to protect the bonus. After all, Brady knows the realities of the football business and planning calendar as well as anybody.

Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference

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