The NFL’s G.O.A.T. is officially calling it quits. Tom Brady announced Tuesday morning that he is retiring after 22 seasons, wrapping up a career that started as a sixth-round pick—and the seventh QB selected in the 2000 NFL Draft—and ends with nearly every major passing record, in addition to seven Super Bowl rings, more than any other player or franchise has won.
The transformation from overlooked prospect to legend is reflected in his bank account. His first Patriots contract was worth a total of $866,500 over three years, including a $38,500 signing bonus, according to Spotrac. While the Super Bowl appearances piled up, Brady repeatedly signed below-market deals with New England to help its roster-building under the cap, but he still retires with a record $293 million in playing salary and bonuses. Fellow QBs Drew Brees, who retired after the 2020 season, and Ben Roethlisberger, who announced his retirement last week, rank second and third with $270 million and $263 million, respectively.
Brady ranked eighth in Sportico’s 2021 list of the world’s highest-paid athletes, with $80.4 million, including $22 million off the field.
Brady eschewed most endorsement opportunities while with the Patriots, but he has been more active off the field in recent years, adding deals with T-Mobile, FTX and even Subway, where he spoofs his healthy lifestyle. He has endorsed Under Armour since 2010, and others sponsors include IWC, Wheels Up and Christopher Cloos. Brady’s jersey is typically the NFL’s top seller, which means a multimillion-dollar royalty check from the NFL Players Association every year. He signed a lucrative, long-term memorabilia and autograph deal with Fanatics in 2020.
Sportico estimates Brady earned $180 million off the field over the past 22 years from endorsements, licensing, appearances and memorabilia. Taken all together, his career earnings are estimated at $475 million, which would rank No. 22 among athletes all-time, not adjusted for inflation, and is a record haul for an NFL player while active.
“He’s an iconic athlete and a strong brand,” said Bob Dorfman, a sports marketing expert at Pinnacle Advertising. “He should have no problem in retirement. Broadcasting, modeling, promoting his fitness regimen, pitching family-targeting products, team ownership—lots of ways for him to stay relevant.”
Brady has a massive platform from which to launch his post-NFL career. The only athletes with comparable awareness levels in the U.S. are others in the G.O.A.T conversation in their respective sports, including Tiger Woods, Serena Williams, Michael Jordan and LeBron James. A recent Morning Consult poll found 91% of Americans had heard of the three-time MVP, with Aaron Rodgers second at 70%. The 47% of respondents who had a favorable opinion of Brady was tops in the NFL. Of course, there are plenty of Brady-haters—22% had an unfavorable opinion, second highest behind former teammate Antonio Brown.
As retirement approached, Brady has accelerated his business ventures beyond TB12, his supplements and fitness products venture with longtime trainer and confidant Alex Guerrero. In 2020, he followed the lead of NBA MVPs Kevin Durant, Steph Curry and James, and launched a production company, 199 Productions, in a nod to his draft selection in 2000. Last year, Brady co-founded the NFT platform Autograph, and the company announced $170 million in new capital last month from a funding round led by venture capital firms Andreessen Horowitz and Kleiner Perkins.
Brady’s latest business: an eponymous active and casualwear apparel brand that released its first collection last month and has its own color, “Brady Blue,” created in partnership with the Pantone Color Institute. The Brady Brand signed name, image and likeness deals for the apparel line with several college athletes, including Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara and Jackson State quarterback Shedeur Sanders, son of Tigers head coach Deion Sanders.
“The future is exciting. I’m fortunate to have cofounded incredible companies like @autograph.io @bradybrand @tb12sports that I am excited to continue help build and grow,” wrote Brady in his Instagram retirement message. “But exactly what my days will look like will be a work in progress.”