Will Tom Brady return for 2023 with the Buccaneers?

USA TODAY Sports

Not long ago, the idea of ​​Tom Brady playing football in 2023 — and playing specifically for the Buccaneers — seemed inconceivable. Now, it’s feeling a little more conceivable.

“Everybody here knows Brady is one year at a time, but what you see every day is a guy who acts like he wants to keep playing,” an unnamed team source recently told JoeBucsFan.com. “This is his team, and the team loves him. He’s heavily invested in many ways. It’s hard to imagine he’d find a better situation with another franchise. And he’s been playing great for three years.”

Another team would surely want him. Soccer is business. Someone will want a player who would sell every single ticket to every single game, and who would deliver multiple prime-time games. The question is whether there’s a team he’ll want.

But will there be a team that gives him a better chance to win than Tampa does? Former Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels may want him in Las Vegas (owner Mark Davis once did), but can they win there? The Miami ship likely has sailed for good, especially with Tua turning things around. The Colts could want him, and maybe they’d have enough to contend, if he were on the team. (The identity of the next coach would be a major factor.) The Giants could be intriguing, if Daniel Jones isn’t back. The 49ers could make sense, if they prefer to give Trey Lance another year to sit and learn.

Still, even when everyone else lines up for Brady, he may decide to stay where he is.

“He loves it here,” former Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians told Ira Kaufman of JoeBucsFan.com. “He loves his teammates, his coaches and the organization. If he decides to play next season, I think it will be with the Buccaneers.”

At one point, it appeared that Brady wouldn’t be back. Frankly, however, if his ex-wife was the main thing pulling him to retire and with that relationship over, what’s to keep him from continuing to keep playing?

He has said he wants to avoid watching football after retiring and concluding, “’These guys suck. I could do way better than that.’”

Given his post-retirement arrangement with Fox, Brady won’t be able to avoid it. He’ll be watching football every week. If he thinks he can play better than the quarterback who’ll be playing in the games he handles for Fox, he’ll be tormented.

Can he keep playing, if he wants to? Quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen recently said that, yes, Brady can.

“He’s playing as good as he ever has,” Christensen said Tuesday on the Buccaneers Radio Network, via JoeBucsFan.com. “I think he’s improving. I think he’s improving. Not to sound like a coaching cliché here again, but you practice, you work hard at what you do, you tend to improve. I think that goes for 45-year-olds, as well. . . . He’s throwing the ball at a high, high level.”

The arm isn’t the issue. The issue will be the legacy. Can he move well enough to avoid taking hits? If not, he’ll eventually get hit enough that he’ll be injured.

It seemed to be moving in that direction earlier this year. Recently, it has changed. And it’s changing enough to raise the question of whether he’ll decide play not as a 45-year-old man but to play as a 46-year-old.

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