Tom Brady announced Tuesday that after 20 years, nine Super Bowl appearances, six championship rings and three NFL MVP awards, he is leaving the New England Patriots.
Set to be a free agent for the first time in his career when the new league year begins Wednesday, Brady posted on social media: “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.”
Brady has thrown for 74,571 yards and 541 touchdowns, both second all-time.
Bill Belichick, who has coached the Patriots for all of Brady’s career, said in a statement: “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.”
One of Brady’s posts Tuesday was dedicated to the New England fans.
“You opened your heart to me, and I opened my heart to you,” he wrote. “And Pats Nation will always be a part of me.”
The other was to the Patriots organization, which selected him in the sixth round of the 2000 draft.
“I appreciated everything that we have achieved and am grateful for our incredible TEAM accomplishments,” Brady wrote. “I have been priviledged to have had the opportunity to know each and everyone of you, and to have the memories we’ve created together.”
The Chargers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been considered top potential destinations for Brady, who grew up in San Mateo.
The Chargers, who parted ways with longtime quarterback Philip Rivers earlier in the offseason, have positioned themselves to make a big move or two in free agency, releasing linebacker Thomas Davis and defensive tackle Brandon Mebane and restructuring the contract of linebacker Denzel Perryman to create more cap space.
The Tennessee Titans were thought to be a top contender for Brady’s services, but they agreed to a four-year extension with quarterback Ryan Tannehill last week. The Dallas Cowboys, another team thought to be interested in signing Brady, put their exclusive franchise tag on quarterback Dak Prescott on Monday.
Last week, Brady launched a Hollywood production company called 199 Productions — an apparent reference to the number at which he was drafted — with Joe and Anthony Russo, who directed the two most recent Avengers movies.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft told ESPN that Brady reached out to him Monday night.
“We had a positive, respectful discussion.” Kraft said. “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.”
Times staff writer Jeff Miller contributed to this report.