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Veteran QBs Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady mull retirement amid uncertain NFL futures

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes and an interception in a playoff loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Monday in Tampa, Fla. File Photo by Steve Nesius/UPI
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes and an interception in a playoff loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Monday in Tampa, Fla. File Photo by Steve Nesius/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 18 (UPI) -- With this season's NFL campaigns over for them, quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady will take time to evaluate career options, including retirement, re-signing or playing elsewhere, they've told reporters.

"There had been a lot of focus on this game," Brady said Monday after his Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost to the Dallas Cowboys in a playoff game in Tampa, Fla. "It will just be one day at a time, truly."

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Brady, 45, completed 66.8% of his passes for 4,694 yards, 25 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 17 starts this season. He also led the NFL with 490 completions and 733 attempts.

The 23-year veteran completed 35 of 66 passes for 351 yards, two scores and an interception in the Buccaneers' 31-14 wild-card round loss to the Cowboys.

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Brady, who led the NFL in yards and touchdown passes in 2021, retired briefly before he signed a one-year, $15 million contract extension with the Buccaneers in April. The team will incur a $35.1 million dead salary cap hit if Brady does not re-sign or retires by March 15.

Brady, who joined the Buccaneers in 2020, took time to thank reporters, fans and the Buccaneers in his postgame news conference Monday at Raymond James Stadium.

"I just want to say thank you guys for everything this year," Brady told reporters. "I really appreciate all your effort. And I know it's hard for you guys, too. It's hard for us players to make it through, and you guys got a tough job.

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"And I appreciate all that you guys do to cover us and everyone who watches and [is] a big fan of the sport. We're very grateful for everyone's support. And, you know, hopefully, you know, I love this organization.

"It's a great place to be. I love everyone for welcoming me, all you regulars. And just very grateful for the respect, and I hope I gave the same thing back to you guys. So thank you very much."

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Several quarterback-needy teams would likely covet the seven-time Super Bowl champion should he reach the free agent market.

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The Las Vegas Raiders, who are set to split with longtime starter Derek Carr, are among those suitors. Raiders coach Josh McDaniels also worked as Brady's offensive coordinator for more than a decade while he played for the New England Patriots.

Brady, who agreed last off-season to join Fox Sports as an NFL analyst, could leave the football field for the broadcast booth. Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch later confirmed to Axios that reports of a 10-year, $375 million deal between Brady and the network were "directionally right."

Rodgers, who has contemplated retirement over the last several off-seasons, signed a three-year, $150.8 million contract extension last March with the Green Bay Packers.

The winner of the last two NFL MVP Awards, Rodgers, 39, completed 64.8% of his throws for 3,695 yards, 26 scores and 12 interceptions in 17 starts this season. The Packers most likely would need to trade Rodgers or would face large salary cap implications if they released the star quarterback.

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Rodgers' Packers went 8-9 and failed to make the playoffs for just the third time since 2008. He told reporters in Week 18 that the season was "frustrating" and "disappointing," but that he learned a lot of "lessons" in 2022-23.

The 18-year veteran said he would think whether he has "anything left to prove" to himself and if he wants to go back and "gear up for another grind" -- or if "it's time to step away and for another voice to be leading" the team.

"I think I need to get away and contemplate those things," Rodgers said after the Packers' Jan. 8 loss to the Detroit Lions. "Those are real to me. I have a lot of pride in what I've accomplished in this league, but I'm also a realist.

"I understand where we are as a team. We are a young team. There could be some changes with some of the older guys. It could be time to step away.

"But, I could take some time and say, 'No, I need to get back out there and go on another run.' I will have to see what it feels like once I'm away from it."

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Rodgers appeared Tuesday on the Pat McAfee Show and said he met with last week with the Packers' front office executives. He said he believes he is capable of winning another MVP award in the "right situation," which could be with a different team.

"Right situation, is that Green Bay or is that somewhere else? I'm not sure," Rodgers said. "But I don't think you should shut down any opportunity. Like I said during the season, that's got to be both sides actually wanting to work together moving forward, and I think there's more conversations to be had."

Rodgers also brought up his mental health.

"I still need to mentally get to a point where I feel 100% locked in and ready to play a 19th season," Rodgers said. "And if I do, then we'll rock and roll and figure that out. If I don't, then we'll go into the jungles for a while."

The Chicago Bears, who have the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, enter the off-season with the most salary cap space in the NFL. The Atlanta Falcons, New York Giants, Cincinnati Bengals and Houston Texans rank inside the Top 5 for salary cap space.

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The 2023 NFL Draft will be held from April 27 to 29 in Kansas City, Mo.

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