Tom Brady is expected to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after announcing Tuesday that he would be leaving the New England Patriots, the team he has played with for two decades and helped lead to six Super Bowl victories.
Reports that Brady would join the Bucs, who haven't won a Super Bowl since 2003, circulated through the NFL just hours after he announced his departure from the Patriots. Although Brady and the Buccaneers haven't officially made the announcement, the NFL's official Twitter account appeared to confirm the news by tweeting a cartoon of Brady in a Bucs jersey.
In a pair of statements posted on Twitter and Instagram earlier Tuesday, Brady thanked his former team and coaches in a tweet labeled "FOREVER A PATRIOT."
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"To all my teammates, coaches, executives and staff, Coach Belichick, RKK and the Kraft family and the entire organization ... I couldn't be the man I am today without the relationships you have allowed me to build with you," wrote Brady, 42. "RKK" appeared to be a reference to Robert Kraft, the Patriots' owner.
"Our team has always set a great standard in pro sports and I know it will continue to do just that," Brady added. "Although my football journey will take place elsewhere, I appreciate everything that we have achieved and am grateful for our incredible TEAM accomplishments."
In Brady's second statement, titled "LOVE YOU PATS NATION," he addressed his fans.
"MA has been my home for twenty years. It has truly been the happiest two decades I could have envisioned in my life and I have nothing but love and gratitude for my time in New England," he wrote.
"The support has been overwhelming — I wish every player could experience it," Brady said. "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."
Teams were able to start legally contacting the agents of free agents at noon ET Monday, but NFL free agency does not begin until Wednesday at 4 p.m.
A sign of Brady's possible departure came in August, when he signed a two-year contract with the Patriots that allowed him to become an unrestricted free agent in 2020.
Jarrett Stidham, 23, will likely be the team's new starting quarterback.
Brady, who was the 199th selection in the 2000 NFL draft, took over as quarterback for the injured Drew Bledsoe in the second week of the 2001 season. He earned three league Most Valuable Player awards and four Super Bowl MVP awards.
He didn't perform at his best in 2019, ending with a pass attempt that was a pick-six to cornerback Logan Ryan during the team's 2019 AFC divisional playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans.
But he has topped or came close to topping a slew of league records, including the record for the most Super Bowl wins by any player in league history. He is one of only five NFL players to have spent 20 years with one team.
"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," Belichick said Tuesday in a statement from the team.
:Brady's championships in three of his first four years on the field and in three of his final six seasons with the team, together with his having competed for championships in almost every other season, is "a credit to Tom's consistency and what separates him," Belichick said. "He didn't just perform. He didn't just win. He won championships over and over again."
"I love Tom like a son and I always will," Kraft added. "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."