Tom Brady said goodbye to the New England Patriots in a series of posts on Instagram on Tuesday, ending his 20-year run with the only NFL team he has ever known.
Brady did not say which team he will sign with for the 2020 season, but he did indicate he was leaving. He officially hits the league's open market Wednesday but could reach agreement with another team Tuesday, when players and clubs can negotiate deals.
A league source told ESPN's Adam Schefter that Brady has not yet made a decision on where he will play and will be exploring his options. Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht acknowledged to Schefter that he has interest in Brady and said that the two sides spoke Monday. He said there has been no conversation Tuesday and there is no deal in place.
"We're waiting to see what Tom decides just like everybody else," Licht said.
What Brady has decided for sure is that he's moving on.
"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 on Instagram.
Brady, 42, leaves New England with six Super Bowl rings and 41 playoff starts since 2001.
In recent years, Brady repeatedly said that his goal was to play until he was 45, but he and the Patriots couldn't come to an agreement on a contract extension last offseason. That created a path for Brady to explore his options as a free agent, and after a 2019 season in which he showed visible frustration at times and the offensively challenged Patriots uncharacteristically lost in the wild-card round of the playoffs, he told Westwood One radio that he was "open-minded about the process."
Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who deferred to coach Bill Belichick in the negotiations, told NBC Sports he hoped Brady would play in New England or retire. Kraft, Belichick and Brady have been widely seen as the three pillars of the Patriots' unprecedented run of success since 2001.
Reached by ESPN's Mike Reiss after Brady posted his message, Kraft said: "Tommy initiated contact last night and 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."
Shortly after Brady's post, the Patriots released statements from Kraft and Belichick.
Among their comments, Belichick said: "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 called it a "privilege to coach Tom Brady for 20 years."
Kraft said of Brady: "While sad today, the overwhelming feeling I have is appreciation for his countless contributions to our team and community."
Brady's 20 seasons with the Patriots -- in which he combined with Belichick to form one of the all-time great quarterback/coach tandems -- are the most ever with one team by a quarterback.
Brady's longtime teammate, Julian Edelman, had a simple reaction to Brady's announcement.
Family. pic.twitter.com/S2HsXJnEvn— Julian Edelman (@Edelman11) March 17, 2020
Brady's final pass as a Patriot will go down as a pick-six by former teammate Logan Ryan in the Patriots' 20-13 playoff loss to the Titans.
That in no way can overshadow Brady's long list of accomplishments in New England:
· Three NFL Most Valuable Player awards (2007, 2010, 2017), which ties him with Jim Brown, Brett Favre and Johnny Unitas for second most all time behind Peyton Manning.
· Fifteen Super Bowl records.
· Four Super Bowl MVP awards.
· A record 13 conference title-game appearances.
· A record nine conference championships.
· A record 17 division championships (Peyton Manning is second with 12).
· Leading the Patriots to at least 12 regular-season wins 13 times, the most all time.
· Becoming the first 42-year-old quarterback in history to start every game in a regular season.
20 years.— New England Patriots (@Patriots) March 17, 2020
A lifetime of memories.
Thank you, Tom. pic.twitter.com/exQPrweT5h
Replacing Brady won't be easy for the Patriots due to salary cap constraints. Since he reached free agency, they will have $13.5 million in dead money from his contract in 2020, even though he'll be on another team.
The next quarterback in line is 23-year-old Jarrett Stidham, a fourth-round draft pick in 2019 who appeared in three games last season. It's believed that the Patriots like what they have in the Auburn product, but he is untested.
After Brady's announcement, Caesars Sportsbook moved the Patriots' odds of winning the Super Bowl from 12-1 to 20-1.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.