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Projecting Tom Brady’s new contract with Buccaneers: How much should Tampa Bay pay QB?

Tom Brady still has one year left on his current Buccaneers contract to keep him in Tampa Bay through age 45, fresh off helping the team win Super Bowl 55 at 43. But with the idea of trying to win more Super Bowls, the Bucs reportedly are ready to give him a team-friendly extension. 

According to ESPN’s Josina Anderson, the Bucs are “getting closer” to restructuring his contract, know that it’s evident Brady wants to play well into his mid-40s, rejuvenated by winning a seventh ring.

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When agreeing to join the Bucs in March 2020, Brady got a symmetrical, fully guaranteed two-deal worth $50 million. The average annual salary of $25 million was broken down into $15 million in base salary and $10 million in roster bonuses for last season and the 2021 season. He was also set up for $3.375 million in miscellaneous bonus money. That added up to salary cap hits of $28.375 million for both years.

With an adjustment setting up the Buccaneers’ cap space to be around $184.5 million for 2021, they will have about $19 million available under the cap, per Spotrac. The Bucs have three key free agents who they are trying to retain with that money in wide receiver Chris Godwin, edge rusher Shaquil Barrett and inside linebacker Lavonte David. Dropping down a tier, three older players they would also like to keep if possible with Brady are defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver Antonio Brown.

At the moment, the Bucs cannot afford Godwin, Barrett and David between the franchise tag and long-term deals. Changing Brady’s contract is a necessity. Otherwise, the team will need to release some players to make that happen. If the Bucs cut defensive lineman William Gholston and two tight ends, Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard — for a combined $18 million in immediate cap relief — they would want those to be additional measures to secure Suh and Gronkowski.

The goal with Brady would be chopping the number significantly from $28 million, by far the biggest cap hit on the roster. Next is wide receiver Mike Evans, carrying a $16.6 million hit for 2021.

Evans, who restructured his contract before last season to create more than $9 million in addtional cap space, allowed the team to add running back Leonard Fournette. Per NBC Sports’ Peter King’s interview with coach Bruce Arians, Evans is willing to help out again. Between Brady and Evans doing their part, the “big three” free agents can all return with pleasing deals.

Brady changed up his contract multiple times for the Patriots to accommodate either bringing back or adding other players. It’s a no-brainer for the Buccaneers to give him a new deal, with his firm, renewed commitment to play multiple more seasons.

Another two-year deal doesn’t make much sense, because it doesn’t allow much flexibility in the contract. Going three or four more years with Brady is smarter, where the Bucs can spread out the cap hit of his guaranteed money and bonuses through either his age 46 or age 47 season.

Converting base salary to bonus money always helps, because it can spread out the cap hit over multiple years. With the Super Bowl victory hitting an extra bonus, Brady bumped up his salary by more than $3 million. Either three years at $84 million through 2023 or four years at $108 million through 2024 could work well. The Buccaneers can guarantee more than half his salary at signing and make a quarter of the contract come in signing bonus money.

The Bucs’ main objectives should be defering the big cap hits by a couple of years and having a reasonable out before the final year of his contract should Brady’s play decline. For Brady, he can still get what he wants in guaranteed money in relation to the inflating market but also give his team a better chance to win another Super Bowl to add to his ring collection.

Forget the rumors of an extension. It’s now only a matter of when and exactly how for Brady.

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