Tom Brady is done with the NFL. And this time he means it. The 45-year-old Buccaneers quarterback that he's retiring "for good" after 23 seasons, one year after the longtime Patriots star initially hung up the cleats. The decision obviously means a lot for the game as a whole, marking the end of the line for the most accomplished signal-caller in NFL history. But it also has more immediate ripple effects in terms of the 2023 quarterback market.
What does Brady's retirement mean for the forthcoming carousel at his position? Here's a look at the major parties affected:
Tampa Bay was already set to enter 2023 in a precarious salary cap position, projected to have less space than all but the notoriously cap-strapped Saints. Brady's retirement hurts them even more, at least initially, as the Bucs will absorb a dead-money hit of roughly $35 million, . That figure can be split between 2023 and 2024, but the bottom line is the Bucs won't have an excess of cash to land his replacement, save for a purge of star talent or a sweeping wave of pay cuts.
Even more dire, they have just one QB under contract through 2023, and that's 2021 second-round pick Kyle Trask, who has yet to take an NFL snap. After three years with Brady, general manager Jason Licht and Co. may prefer another quick fix, but the most feasible target there -- longtime Raiders QB Derek Carr, who's available via trade -- should have more spendy suitors. The Titans' Ryan Tannehill, who could also be traded or released, may be a bit more affordable if he's outright cut. Ditto for pending 49ers free agent Jimmy Garoppolo, though he has more logical connections elsewhere (more on that below).
Of course, ideally, the Bucs would solve their dilemma at QB not only for 2023 but beyond, and it's possible they could look to move up from their No. 19 overall pick in the first round to land the last of the remaining top prospects -- Florida's Anthony Richardson, perhaps. Otherwise, however, their most likely path forward probably involves a double dip of mid-tier options, either with a mid-round pick and/or a backup-level free agent like Andy Dalton, Jacoby Brissett, Gardner Minshew or Teddy Bridgewater.
Even with Tua Tagovailoa making a leap in 2022, no team made more sense as a potential Brady destination. Miami was literally penalized by the NFL for impermissible communications with Brady prior to this season, so the mutual interest was already established. Now, the Dolphins have little choice but to follow through with their public commitment to Tagovailoa. But that doesn't mean they won't -- or, more accurately, shouldn't -- pursue better insurance at the position. Tua's got some of the biggest medical red flags of any QB in the NFL, and that's saying nothing of his still-unproven ability to win as an off-script passer. A higher-upside replacement of Bridgewater as the No. 2, like Minshew or Taylor Heinicke, could be in play.
Brady's retirement is surely music to Trey Lance's ears. The former No. 3 overall pick is still a total unknown after losing most of 2022 to injury, but with TB12 off the table for his childhood team, Garoppolo headed for free agency and improbable rookie fill-in Brock Purdy now sidelined for months after elbow surgery, Lance is back in the saddle as a potential Opening Day QB1. Kyle Shanahan's been through enough QB mayhem to justify another play for veteran insurance. But after their investment in Lance and magical run with Purdy, odds are they'll let the two youngsters go head-to-head for the top job deep into the summer.
Brady returning to the AFC East may have been less likely if it weren't to play in Miami, but New York is literally broadcasting its plans to go big for a veteran QB with new coordinator Nathaniel Hackett in place and former first-rounder Zach Wilson effectively banished to the bench. Now, their eyes can officially zero in on the biggest vets set to be available: Carr, who's likely a top fallback option, Lamar Jackson, the pipe dream in the event of an ugly breakup with Baltimore, and Aaron Rodgers, assuming the Packers star doesn't retire and is finally ready for a mutual split from Green Bay.
The most popularly predicted Brady destination in the event of a move from Tampa, the Raiders made sense solely because of the Josh McDaniels connection -- Vegas' maligned coach having spent years as TB12's coordinator in New England. With that scenario evaporated, the Raiders are still primed to part ways with Derek Carr after a long, tough but disappointing partnership. Jimmy Garoppolo is potentially the next best thing for McDaniels, sharing the Patriots roots, but a Jarrett Stidham return, in conjunction with a rookie addition, is also a logical alternative. Securing a proven passer for No. 1 receiver Davante Adams would be ideal, but the wiser play might be building for the future, and using the No. 7 overall draft pick on a top prospect.
Tennessee had interest in Brady during his 2020 free agency tour and would've made sense now that coach Mike Vrabel, an ex-Brady teammate, potentially has more sway with a new front office. Ryan Tannehill is under contract through 2023, but due $36.6M, he's a virtual lock for either a pay cut, trade or release after an injury-riddled 2022. Just a year after spending a third-rounder on Malik Willis, they could look to the draft again, owning the No. 11 overall pick while facing a bit of a cap crisis (projected roughly $24M over). Alternatively, they could view someone like Carr as a reasonable enough upgrade, or settle for one of the lesser-name free agents (i.e. Brissett, Heinicke, Bridgewater) as competition for Willis.