FOXBOROUGH, MA — Tom Brady will his continue his Hall of Fame career in Tampa Bay, according to multiple reports Tuesday night. The news came hours after Brady’s somewhat expected but still staggering exit from New England, a franchise he led to six Super Bowl championships.
It’s unknown when the deal will become official, but ESPN’s Adam Schefter was clear: “Tom Brady will play in Tampa.” The deal, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, is worth roughly $30 million per year.
The Buccaneers were one of the last teams anyone expected to sign Brady when this saga started. Tampa Bay lacks pedigree and history — despite a Super Bowl title in 2002 — but Brady will bring instant credibility to a talented team that missed the playoffs for a 13th straight season last year.
The next Super Bowl will be in Tampa Bay.
The Buccaneers play in New England in 2021.
The signing ended a 20-year reign in New England that saw the Patriots achieve an unprecedented run of success atop the National Football League, becoming the premier team sports winner of the 21st century.
“I want to say thank you for the past 20 years of my life and the daily commitment to winning and creating a winning culture built on great values,” Brady said. “You have allowed me to maximize my potential and that is all a player can ever hope for.”
Team owner Robert Kraft and coach Bill Belichick heaped heartfelt praise on Brady in statements released by the team:
“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?” Kraft said. “I love Tom like a son and I always will.”
Belichick added: “Sometimes in life, it takes 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.”
Brady, who turns 43 in August, was set to become a free agent Wednesday for the first time in his career.
The parting of ways could be considered something of a mutual decision. All the reporting pointed to the Patriots never making an offer that would have realistically appealed to Brady, indicating the team was ready to move on.
It became increasingly clear Brady’s time in New England was coming to a close since the beginning of last season. The first sign was the preseason restructuring of his contract that would not allow the Patriots to place the franchise tag on him. In retrospect, a more obvious sign was when he put his $30+ million Brookline mansion on the market.
Then, of course, there was the misery. Brady was noticeably dour throughout the season, surrounded by a wilting cast at receiver and offensive line. His final two games with the Patriots included the team’s epic meltdown against Miami in Week 17 and a stunning first-round playoff exit at home against Tennessee.
Second-year player Jarrett Stidham is now the lone quarterback on the Patriots roster. The Patriots can begin signing new players Wednesday at 4 p.m.
Brady holds about as many records as one would expect a player who goes by the G.O.A.T (Greatest Of All Time) would hold. He’s a three-time MVP, the winningest quarterback in league history and second all-time in passing touchdowns, yards and completions.
But what Brady’s known best for is his clutch performances, particularly in the playoffs. He won three Super Bowls by the time he was 27 — and three more after he turned 37. He’s a four-time Super Bowl MVP.
Brady was drafted by the Patriots with the 199th pick of the 2000 NFL Draft, a perceived slight that would serve as his motivation for years. The University of Michigan product threw three passes his rookie year and wasn’t expected to play much his sophomore season. Brady was sitting behind big-armed veteran Drew Bledsoe, who that offseason signed a then-record 10-year contract worth $103 million.
Everything changed just two weeks into the 2001 season. Bledsoe suffered a big hit from New York Jets linebacker Mo Lewis — a crushing blow that sheared a blood vessel in Bledsoe’s chest and changed the course of NFL history.
Brady wasn’t able to lead the Patriots to a victory in relief that day, but he helped New England win 14 of their next 17 games to end the season — including the so-called Snow Bowl against Oakland. He then led the Patriots to the biggest Super Bowl upset to that point by beating the St. Louis Rams to deliver the franchise’s first championship.
The Patriots won nine games the next season but missed the playoffs — the last time a healthy Brady would miss postseason play (He tore his ACL the first game of the 2008 season.).
Brady quarterbacked a reloaded Patriots team to Super Bowl championships in 2003 against Carolina and 2004 against Philadelphia.
The middle of the decade saw the birth of SpyGate, the videotape cheating scandal which would be the first of many sticky situations Brady and the team found themselves in. It also saw the Patriots morph from a defense-first team to one built around their quarterback. Brady responded by setting records in an historic 2007 season, torching the league en route to 50 touchdown passes.