Brady uncertainty overshadows other free agency options (copy)

PAUL BILODEAU/Staff photo

Tom Brady announced Tuesday that he is leaving the New England Patriots.

He's gone.

Tom Brady announced on social media Tuesday morning that he plans to leave the New England Patriots after 20 seasons with the franchise. 

"Although my football journey will take place elsewhere, I appreciate everything that we have achieved and am grateful for our incredibly TEAM accomplishments," Brady wrote in a farewell post. "I have been privileged to have had the opportunity to know each and every one of you, and to have the memories we've created together.

"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," he continued later. "I thank you from the bottom of my heart and I will always love you and what we have shared – a lifetime of fun memories."

Brady officially becomes an unrestricted free agent this week for the first time in his career, and his future has been one of the most closely followed stories in football since the NFL offseason began.

Although Brady indicated that he won't return to New England, he has reportedly not decided where he will play next season and will be exploring his options, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are expected to be the top contender to land Brady, which could happen as early as Wednesday.

According to ESPN's Mike Reiss, Brady informed Patriots owner Robert Kraft of his decision on Monday night. Kraft and coach Bill Belichick released statements on Tuesday thanking Brady for everything he had done for the organization.

"How do I possibly sum up the depth of my gratitude to Tom Brady for what he's given us these past 20 year, or the sadness I feel knowing it's ending?" Kraft wrote. "I love Tom like a son and I always will. He has brought so much happiness to me personally and to all of our fans."

“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," Belichick said. "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."

Brady leaves New England as the greatest quarterback in franchise history, having led the Patriots to six Super Bowl championships since being drafted as a sixth-round pick (No. 199 overall) in 2000.

Upon taking over for longtime starter Drew Bledsoe in early 2001 after the veteran suffered an injury, Brady made an immediate impact, leading the Patriots to their first championship in Super Bowl XXXVI.

Brady went on to lead New England to three Super Bowl titles in his first four seasons as starter, and in 2007 he enjoyed a breakthrough year statistically, posted what was at that point the greatest single-season statistically by a quarterback in league history. He threw for 4,806 yards and a then-record 50 touchdown passes against just eight interceptions, leading the Patriots to an undefeated regular season before the team was upset by the New York Giants in the Super Bowl.

Brady suffered a major setback in 2008 when he missed the entire season with a torn ACL, but he returned in 2009 and maintained his dominance throughout the next decade-plus, finishing his Patriots tenure with three MVP awards, three First Team All-Pro selections and 14 Pro Bowl nods. He was consistently among the best quarterbacks in football throughout the 2010s, elevating his game even into his late 30s and early 40s to stave off a challenge from presumed successor Jimmy Garoppolo. He won three more Super Bowls in five seasons after turning 37, including his sixth and most recent title at 41 in 2018.

Brady finishes his Patriots tenure with a 219-64 regular season record and a 30-11 record in 41 postseason games. He reached the playoffs in 17 of his 18 healthy seasons as the starter, winning 17 AFC East titles and reaching the Super Bowl nine times.

He also owns virtually all of the Patriots' franchise passing records, throwing for 74,571 yards and 541 touchdowns in the regular season and 11,388 yards and 73 touchdowns in the playoffs. He led New England on 58 game-winning drives and 45 fourth-quarter comebacks, including 13 game-winning drives and nine fourth-quarter comebacks in the playoffs.

Brady's most famous moments came on the biggest stage, with the quarterback leading game-winning drives in all six of New England's Super Bowl victories. He first established his greatness at the end of Super Bowl XXXVI against the St. Louis Rams, leading the Patriots down the field to set up Adam Vinatieri's game-winning field goal. He followed that later by helping New England score 14 unanswered points to beat the Seattle Seahawks for his fourth title in Super Bowl XLIX, and in 2016 he engineered the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, helping erase a 28-3 deficit to the Atlanta Falcons to win Super Bowl LI 34-28 in overtime.

With Brady gone, New England's in-house quarterback options are now second-year signal caller Jarrett Stidham, a fourth-round pick out of Auburn in 2019, and Cody Kessler, a 2016 third-round pick who has started 12 games in his first four seasons in the league.

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Tom Brady's Farewell

"To all my teammates, coaches, executives and staff, Coach Belichick, RKK and the Kraft family and the entire organization. I want to say thank you for the past twenty years of my life and the daily commitment to winning and creating a winning culture built on great values. I am grateful for all that you have fought me – I have learned from everyone. You have allowed me to maximize my potential and that is all a player can ever hope for. Everything we have accomplished brings me great joy and the lessons I have learned with carry on with me forever. I couldn't be the man I am today with the relationships you have allowed me to build with you.

I have benefitted from all you have given me. I cherished every opportunity I had to be part of our team, and I love you all for that. Our team has always set a great standard in pro sports and I know it will continue to do just that.

Although my football journey will take place elsewhere, I appreciate everything that we have achieved and am grateful for our incredibly TEAM accomplishments. I have been privileged to have had the opportunity to know each and every one of you, and to have the memories we've created together.

I wanted to say thank you to all of the incredible fans and Patriots supporters. MA has been my home for twenty years. It had truly been the happiest two decades I could have envisioned in my life and I have nothing by love and gratitude for my time in New England. The support has been overwhelming – I wish every player could experience it.

My children were born and raised here and you always embraced this California kid as your own. I love your commitment and loyalty to your teams and winning for our city means more than you will ever know. I can't thank you enough for the support of our team. The packed training camps and sold out stadiums and mostly the victory parades. I have been so blessed to share them with you all. I tried to represent us always in the best and most honorable way and I fought hard with my teammates to help bring victory and triumph even in the most dire situations. You opened your heart to me, and I opened my heart to you. 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 of fun memories."

Robert Kraft's statement

“How do I possibly sum up the depth of my gratitude to Tom Brady for what he’s given us these past 20 years, or the sadness I feel knowing it’s ending? I love Tom like a son and I always will. He has brought so much happiness to me personally and to all of our fans. 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. 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.

“When Tom arrived in New England as an unheralded, sixth-round pick, no one could have imagined the fairytale story that would be written, the records that would be broken or the joy he would bring to an entire region. He leaves 20 years later as the winningest quarterback in NFL history with six Super Bowl victories, nine AFC titles and 17 division championships. He has been an exemplary teammate and leader. There simply will never be another Tom Brady. I now look forward to the day we can bring him back home to New England to celebrate his Patriots career, his endless achievements and his legacy as the greatest of all time. I love him very much.”

Bill Belichick statement

“Tom was not just a player who bought into our program. He was one of its original creators. Tom lived and perpetuated our culture. On a daily basis, he was a tone setter and a bar raiser. He won championships in three of his first four years on the field and in three of his final six seasons with us, while competing for championships in most every season in between. This is a credit to Tom’s consistency and what separates him. He didn’t just perform. He didn’t just win. He won championships over and over again. 

“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.

“Examples of Tom’s greatness are limitless, going back even before he was drafted. We witnessed how he prepared when he wasn’t playing, how he performed when he got his opportunity, what he did to continuously improve, his leadership, his mindset, the example he set, and, of course, the person he is. I am extremely grateful for what he did for our team and for me personally.

“Sometimes in life, it takes some time to pass before truly appreciating something or someone but that has not been the case with Tom. He is a special person and the greatest quarterback of all-time.”

This is a developing story, check back for further updates.

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