Tom Brady wanted to make sure a longtime teammate got his money.
In the fourth quarter of the Buccaneers’ matchup Sunday against the Panthers, Brady was seen on the Tampa Bay sideline telling the coaching staff that he was not coming out of the game. Instead, he went back in and immediately found Rob Gronkowski for a 7-yard completion. The pass helped Gronkowski hit his second $500,000 contract incentive of the game, meaning that the veteran tight end would collect $1 million total for his season stats.
With his teammate’s milestones reached and Tampa Bay ahead by 14 points with less than seven minutes remaining, Brady left the game to begin resting for the Buccaneers’ playoff run. Tampa Bay eventually won 41-17 to secure the NFC’s No. 2 seed.
According to Spotrac, Gronkowski needed to finish the season with 55 receptions and 750 receiving yards to earn $500,000 for each milestone. The site also said he needed nine touchdowns to pick up another $500,000, but he finished the regular season with only six.
Gronkowski came into Sunday’s game with 48 receptions and 665 receiving yards, meaning he needed 85 yards and seven receptions against Carolina. At the time of the fourth-quarter pass, he had 130 receiving yards but only six receptions.
This isn’t the first time Brady has helped a teammate reach incentives. Last season, he threw three shovel passes to Antonio Brown to give the wide receiver 45 receptions for the season, meeting an incentive that paid him $250,000, according to NBC Sports.
Brown missed out on several incentives this season when he was released by the team after leaving Tampa Bay’s Week 17 game early. He needed eight catches, 55 receiving yards and a touchdown to reach 50 receptions, 600 yards and five touchdowns, with each incentive worth $333,333.
Brady himself could be in line for a nice payday in incentives. According to Spotrac, he could have made $562,500 each for finishing in the top five in passer rating, touchdown passes (or more than 25), passing yards, completion percentage and yards per attempt, all with the condition that the team rank at least 25th in rushing per attempt (it ranked 16th).
Brady missed on passer rating, completion percentage and yards per attempt, but he led the league in passing yards and touchdown passes.
He will also earn $500,000 for leading his team to the playoffs. Should the Buccaneers beat the Eagles in the wild-card round, he will receive $750,000 for the win. He can earn $1.25 million for a divisional-round win, $1.75 million for winning the NFC and $2.25 million for winning the 2022 Super Bowl.