ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that despite the announcement, Brady has not decided on his next team. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that the Buccaneers and Chargers are offering Brady contracts worth more than $30 million annually.
Brady ended his first Instagram post by thanking everyone involved in the Patriots organization.
“Although my football journey will take place elsewhere, I appreciate everything that we have achieved and am grateful for our incredible TEAM accomplishments,” he said. “I have been privileged to have had the opportunity to know each and everyone of you, and to have the memories we’ve created together.”
He ended his second Instagram post by thanking Patriots fans.
“You opened your heart to me, and I opened my heart to you,” he said. “And Pats Nation will always be a part of me. I don’t know what my football future holds but it is time for me to open a new stage for my life and career. I thank you from the bottom of my heart and I will always love you and what we have shared—a lifetime full of fun memories.”
Patriots owner Bob Kraft told ESPN’s Mike Reiss that he spoke to Brady on Monday night and that he loves Brady “like a son.”
Robert Kraft to ESPN: "Tommy initiated contact last night & came over. We had a positive, respectful discussion. It's not the way I want it to end, but I want him to do what is in his best personal interest. After 20 years with us, he has earned that right. I love him like a son"— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) March 17, 2020
Kraft and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick also released a statement on Tuesday morning.
Brady’s contract structure means that the Patriots will take a $13.5 million salary cap hit in 2020 following the quarterback’s departure. That exit has been telegraphed for nearly a year, from Brady putting his Massachusetts mansion on the market through the Patriots making moves on Monday that left them with limited cap space; New England committed key resources to retaining safety Devin McCourty and guard Joe Thuney. And as strange as it will be to see Brady wearing another team’s jersey, many NFL legends have ended their careers in unfamiliar uniforms, from Joe Montana on the Chiefs to Brett Favre on the Jets and Vikings to Peyton Manning on the Broncos. Brady’s final pass as a Patriot was a pick-six against the Titans in the wild-card round of last season’s playoffs.
The Patriots have a few options to replace Brady. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton could be acquired through a trade. Teddy Bridgewater and Jameis Winston are available as free agents. And Jarrett Stidham could be promoted from a backup role to the starting job. Bill Belichick has cemented his reputation as the best football coach of all time in part by replacing stars in creative and effective ways, but since 2001 he’s had to replace Brady only twice: when Brady tore his ACL in 2008, and when Brady was suspended four games during Deflategate in 2016. The 2008 Patriots went 11-5 with Matt Cassel under center. The 2016 Patriots went 3-1 while rotating between Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett at quarterback. The 2020 Patriots will be fascinating.
Brady is a 14-time Pro Bowler, three-time All-Pro, three-time MVP, two-time Offensive Player of the Year, and one-time Comeback Player of the Year. Most notably, he’s a six-time Super Bowl champion who reached nine Super Bowls in the past 20 years. When Brady began his Pats career, the NFL did not have a Michael Jordan–esque Greatest of All Time figure. By taking New England to unprecedented heights, he’s become that. Now, Brady’s time as a Patriot is a memory.