BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — The day most people in New England were fearing has arrived.
Around 9 a.m. Tuesday morning, Tom Brady announced on his various social media platforms that his "football journey will take place elsewhere," ending the most successful run between a coach and quarterback in NFL history after 20 seasons.
He later followed up with a letter to Patriots fans, saying that he has "nothing but love and gratitude for his time in New England," and thanked them for the undying support the past two decades, noting the packed training camps, the sold out stadiums, and the victory parades.
So now the question is, what's next for the six time Super Bowl champ—and the franchise he leaves behind?
For the quarterback, the "dark-horse" of the Brady sweepstakes appears to be the one that's going to land his services.
Colin Cowherd of Fox Sports revealed on his show Tuesday that he had received a text from a celebrity source.
"I have somebody telling me this morning—this is very interesting—this is not a football source. It’s an icon source. It is somebody in Tom’s stratosphere who knows Tom and is a famous person. And he says Tampa,” Cowherd said. “That’s what he’s telling me.
This seems to be the consensus across the NFL Media landscape, although the Chargers are still firmly in contention. According to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport, Los Angeles and Tampa Bay both made strong offers of $30 million or more.
With Brady officially saying that he's not returning to the Patriots, it may have gotten some other teams back in the mix as well. Up until this week, a lot of executives around the league thought that Brady would still re-sign in New England, and this whole free agency thing was just a ploy to get more "weapons." Turns out, that wasn't the case.
We don't know for sure when Brady will announce where he's signing. It may be tomorrow, when the 2020 league year officially starts, or it could be sometime later this week.
According to multiple reports, Brady informed Patriots Team Owner Robert Kraft of his decision Monday night, when he went to Kraft's home in Brookline.
Kraft says that he originally thought the quarterback was calling him to work out a new contract.
Shortly after Brady made his announcement, Kraft and Bill Belichick put out statements reflecting on Brady's career in New England, with the owner saying "there simply will never be another Tom Brady" and the coach ending his letter with "he is a special person and the greatest quarterback of all-time."
Many now are wondering—how did it get to this point?
NBC Sports Boston Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran laid out some of the reasons why Brady's departure became inevitable.
The Patriots made very clear to Brady over the past few years that they weren’t in it with him for the long haul anymore. They made it clear before the 2018 season when — instead of the extension he’d been trying to extract — he was given some incentives to hit in order to sweeten his salary. He didn’t hit any of those incentives.
Curran later added that it came down to Belichick's decision, and that the Coach didn't want to pay for a player set to enter his third decade in the league.
If the ride weren’t over, if Bill Belichick wasn’t ambivalent about re-upping with Brady for his 43-year-old season, there would have been an offer made over the past two months since the season ended.
The insider also reported that it was the lack of a real offer from Belichick that signaled it was time to move on.
While the world waits to learn where Brady signs, the Patriots are left looking for a quarterback. Bill Belichick is the master of preparation, so it's highly unlikely that he did not have a plan for his team in the Post-Brady era. But if the season started tomorrow, 2019 4th-round pick Jarrett Stidham would be the starting quarterback.
Stidham is relatively unknown, but according to the Executive Director of the Reese's Senior Bowl and long-time NFL Scout Jim Nagy, the Pats got a steal in the Draft last year.
If not Stidham, there are a few starting quarterbacks available, whether in Free Agency (Jameis Winston) or via a trade (Nick Foles, Andy Dalton, Derek Carr). It will be very interesting to see what direction Belichick chooses to go.
Due to his salary, Stidham is the most-likely option to be under center for the Patriots next season, The team will assume a $13.5 million cap hit at 4 p.m. Wednesday. Add on top of that the contracts just handed out to the likes of Devin McCourty ($2.23 million) and Joe Thuney (Franchise-tagged at $14.8 million), and the team does not have a lot of space to work with.
Just after 7pm Tuesday evening, Ian Rapoport reported that Brady has agreed to sign with Tampa Bay.
WBZ NewsRadio's Dan Watkins (@DanWatkinsRadio) reports: