Tom Brady didn’t want to say where he will be playing football in 2020. But it won’t be in New England.
Brady officially ended the drama around 8:45 a.m. Tuesday, posting a goodbye message to Patriots fans on his verified Twitter account. He didn’t say where he will be playing, but multiple reports on Tuesday evening said Brady will soon sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“Although my football journey will take place elsewhere, I appreciate everything that we have achieved and am grateful for our incredible TEAM accomplishments,” he wrote. “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.”
Brady will officially become a free agent Wednesday. The Patriots and Brady agreed to part ways on Monday night, leaving the Bucs and the Los Angeles Chargers as Brady’s top suitors. Both teams reportedly offered Brady a financial package worth around $30 million per season.
Brady will count $13.5 million against the Patriots’ salary cap in 2020 as they search for his replacement. They have second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham and journeyman Cody Kessler on the roster.
“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,” Brady wrote on social media. “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.”
Brady’s announcement marks the end of an incredible two-decade run in New England as part of the most accomplished dynasty in NFL history. Joining the Patriots as a sixth-round draft pick in 2000 — the 199th overall selection — Brady assumed the starting job in 2001 following an injury to Drew Bledsoe, and subsequently led the Patriots to nine Super Bowl appearances in his next 19 seasons, winning six. Both are records that may never be broken.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft said in January, shortly after the playoff loss to Tennessee, that his hope was for Brady to return to the Patriots or retire. He expressed some disappointment Tuesday.
“Tommy initiated contact last night and came over," Kraft told ESPN. “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."
One league source said the Patriots did make an offer to Brady for 2020, but that Brady didn’t like it.
Kraft also released a statement on Tuesday.
“I had hoped this day would never come, but rather that Tom would end his remarkable career in a Patriots uniform after yet another Super Bowl championship,” Kraft said. “Unfortunately, the two sides were unable to reach an agreement to allow that dream to become a reality. While sad today, the overwhelming feeling I have is appreciation for his countless contributions to our team and community.”
Brady and coach Bill Belichick, who also joined the Patriots in 2000, took a woebegone franchise that had never won a championship to unprecedented heights. The Patriots were the most successful NFL organization in the 2000s and 2010s, winning three Super Bowls between 2001-04, and three more between 2014-18.
They were the first team to complete a 16-0 regular season. They made the playoffs in 17 of Brady’s 18 full seasons as the starter (he sat out almost all of 2008 with a knee injury), and won the AFC East 17 times.
Brady racked up individual accolades, as well: three MVP awards (2007, 2010, 2017), 14 Pro Bowls, four Super Bowl MVPs. He ranks second in NFL history behind Drew Brees in passing yards and touchdown passes.
“Tom was not just a player who bought into our program. He was one of its original creators. Tom lived and perpetuated our culture,” Belichick said in a statement.
“Tom and I will always have a great relationship built on love, admiration, respect and appreciation. Tom’s success as a player and his character as a person are exceptional.
"Nothing about the end of Tom’s Patriots career changes how unfathomably spectacular it was. With his relentless competitiveness and longevity, he earned everyone’s adoration and will be celebrated forever. It has been a privilege to coach Tom Brady for 20 years.”
Under Belichick, the Patriots have been known as a team that trades away star players before they hit their decline. In January of 2018, team president Jonathan Kraft said that Brady would have say in when his Patriots career ended.
"I think Tom Brady’s earned the right to have that be a decision he makes when wants to make it,” Jonathan Kraft said then.
But there were cracks in the relationship the last few years, even as Brady and the Patriots continued to win. In a 2015 New York Times Magazine article, Brady’s father predicted that “it will end badly . . . It’s a cold business. And for as much as you want it to be familial, it isn’t.”
Those cracks deepened in recent years. Brady was upset that Kraft didn’t fight harder on his behalf during the “Deflategate” controversy that resulted in a four-game suspension for Brady in 2016.
Brady also was upset that the Patriots played hardball with him on his contract the last few years, making him go year-to-year instead of helping him achieve his stated goal of playing football until age 45.
Brady has been upset at various times — particularly in 2019 — when he regularly took below-market contracts and didn’t believe the Patriots were spending enough money on the pieces around him.
And the divide deepened again in 2017 when Brady’s training guru and business partner, Alex Guerrero, had his special privileges with the team revoked by Belichick.
Brady skipped offseason workouts with the team in 2018 and 2019. In a 2018 self-produced Facebook documentary “Tom vs. Time,” Brady’s wife, model Gisele Bundchen, said, “The last two years were very challenging for him in so many ways. He tells me ‘I love it so much and I just want to go to work and feel appreciated and have fun.’ "
Last year, while the Patriots were winning games but struggling on offense, Brady told NBC broadcaster Al Michaels that he was “the most miserable 8-0 quarterback in the NFL.”
In August, Brady signed a new contract with the Patriots that automatically voided this month and guaranteed he would be a free agent for the first time in his career. He also put his Brookline house up for sale.
Brady’s Patriots career ultimately ends with a whimper. First they lost at home in Week 17 to the lowly Dolphins to cost themselves a first-round bye. Then theylost at home to the Titans in the wild-card round, the first time since 2010 that they didn’t reach at least the AFC Championship game. Brady’s final pass as a Patriot was an interception that was returned for a touchdown by Titans cornerback Logan Ryan.
Relatively few quarterbacks last their entire career with one team. Joe Montana finished his career with the Chiefs. Brett Favre played for the Jets and Vikings. Johnny Unitas went to the Chargers, and Joe Namath to the Rams.
Now Brady can be added to the list if he plays in 2020. The Chargers and Buccaneers are both reportedly offering Brady $30 million a year.
Julian Edelman, Brady’s favorite receiver and close friend, begged Brady to stay this offseason, launching a #StayTom social media campaign.
Montana, Brady’s boyhood idol, said in January, "Don’t [leave] – if you don’t have to. "It’s not easy to go to another team and get accepted, no matter how much success you’ve had and how many years you’ve played.”
Namath said in January, “It’s almost beyond my belief that he would go to another team under any circumstances.”
Former Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw said, “That would be one of the saddest moments in the NFL, to have its greatest player ever, greatest quarterback ever, to not finish it up in New England.”
Kurt Warner, who played for the Giants and Cardinals after winning a Super Bowl with the Rams, said, “It's not always easy to change that culture and think it can be done overnight. I just think there's a lot to lose here if you're Tom Brady going somewhere else."
Charlie Weis, Brady’s offensive coordinator from 2000-04, expressed sadness Tuesday.
“I felt that Tommy would finish up in New England,” Weis told SiriusXM NFL. “I knew that he’d get offers for more money from other places. And I knew the dollar figures would be significant, probably $10 million a year different, at least.
"I have to tell you, I’m a little stunned. I really am.”
Ben Volin can be reached at email@example.com.