The unthinkable has happened as, after 20 years and six Super Bowl victories, Tom Brady has announced that he is leaving the New England Patriots and won’t be returning.
While we’ve been reporting for a while that Brady could finish his career elsewhere, the lack of confirmation from any of the parties involved gave rise to the possibility that he would quietly re-sign for one last ride in New England.
But, after a wild offseason, which included lip reading at a college basketball game and real estate rumors, Brady finally broke his silence on Tuesday morning via social media. In a lengthy post, in which he thanked everybody from Bill Belichick to his teammates, he confirmed that his “football journey will take place elsewhere.”
FOREVER A PATRIOT pic.twitter.com/QSBOJBs4uy
— Tom Brady (@TomBrady) March 17, 2020
It wasn’t long before the tributes started pouring in, with Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick leading the praise for the man widely considered the GOAT. Behind the words, however, was a heavy implication: this was Tom Brady’s decision. As the dust began to settle, NFL Network’s Michael Giardi reported that Robert Kraft told him, “if Tom wanted to remain a Patriot, we would have had a deal,” while Kraft told ESPN that “Tommy initiated contact last night… it’s not the way I want it to end, but I want him to do what is in his best personal interest.”
But, while it’s certainly the end of an era, it’s clear that Brady feels that he still has something to offer teams. He’s not retiring, so what’s next?
The Chargers and Bucs are favorites to sign Brady
PFN Insider Benjamin Allbright reported back on February 2 that the Los Angeles Chargers had a serious interest in signing Brady, stating that “Brady likes the idea of heading to the Chargers with the talent that they have” and noting that “their offensive coordinator Shane Steichen currently runs the Erhardt-Perkins offense, similar to what is run in New England.”
The Chargers have already made the decision to move on from Philip Rivers, leaving a huge hole at quarterback. While both Allbright and Tony Pauline have linked them with Oregon QB Justin Herbert in the upcoming draft, the prospect of bringing in Brady must be a mouth-watering one for owners still hoping to inspire a fanbase following the team’s relocation from San Diego.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the other frontrunner. Jameis Winston, who the franchise drafted with the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, looks to be on the way out after the team elected to use the franchise tag on linebacker Shaquille Barrett. Winston’s inconsistencies and questionable decision making have clearly left the team open to moving on from him, and the team is very interested in working with Brady.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported on Twitter that both teams have already made offers to Brady, with his understanding being that Brady would be set to make upwards of $30 million. It’s uncertain whether Brady is looking for a multi-year deal or whether he only wants to commit for the 2020 season but, after years of taking team-friendly deals in order to maximize the talent around him, he finally has the freedom to test the market.
Brady won’t rush his decision
NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported on Twitter that “an announcement on (Brady’s) new team is not likely to come today.” The last time that Brady started a new season outside of New England was with the 1999 Michigan Wolverines, so it’s not surprising that he wants to consider his options carefully.
Free agency has been full of twists and turns already, and we’re just getting started. Brady will doubtlessly be keeping his eyes on free agent signings and trades and assessing their impact on his future. It will be strange seeing him in another team’s uniform, but whichever team he joins will be hoping that there’s one more magical Super Bowl run in TB12.