The future of quarterback Tom Brady has been one of the biggest stories in NFL since the start of the year – and we now know it will not feature the New England Patriots unless they line-up on the opposite sideline in 2020 or beyond.
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Brady and coach Bill Belichick’s relationship has been the subject of much rumours and speculation over the past few years, but whether or not these two men really like each other did not matter. Together they inspired the greatest dynasty that the National Football League has ever seen – something that is not supposed to happen with the NFL’s aim for parity.
The pair combined for six Super Bowl wins and a string of conference and division titles during their time together, but since the playoff defeat to Tennessee in January there has been one huge question to be answered – was that game the final stand in this sensational run?
We now have that answer after Brady officially confirmed the end of his time in Foxborough in two statements released via social media.
“To all my team-mates, coaches, executives and staff, Coach Belichick, RKK and the Kraft family and the entire organisation. 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,” he wrote.
“I am grateful for all that you have taught me – I have learned from everyone. You all have allowed to maximise my potential and that is all a player can ever hope for. Everything we accomplished brings me great joy and the lessons I have learned will carry on with me forever. I couldn’t be the man I am today without he relationships you have allowed me to build with you. I have benefited from all you have given me. I cherished every opportunity I had to be part of our team, and I love you all for that.
“Our team has always set a great standard in pro sports and I know it will continue to do just that. Although my football journey will take place elsewhere, I appreciate everything that we have achieved and am grateful for our incredible TEAM accomplishments. I have been privileged to have had the opportunity to know each and every one of you, and to have memories we’ve created together.”
FOREVER A PATRIOT pic.twitter.com/QSBOJBs4uy
— Tom Brady (@TomBrady) March 17, 2020
“I wanted to say thank you to all the incredible fans and Patriots supporters,” he then continued. “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 an gratitude for my time in New England.
“The support has been overwhelming. I wish every player could experience it. My children were born and raised here and you always embraced this California kid as your own. I love your commitment and loyalty to your teams and winning for our city means more than you will ever know. 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. I tried to represent us always in the best and most honuorable way, and I fought hard with my teammates to help bring victory and triumph even in the most dire situations.
“You opened your heart to me, and I opened my heart to you. And Pats Nation will always be a part of me. 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. I thank you from the bottom of my heart and I will always love you and what we have shared – a lifetime full of fun memories.”
LOVE YOU PATS NATION pic.twitter.com/lxSQZmnjPL
— Tom Brady (@TomBrady) March 17, 2020
So what happens next? Who are the favourites? And where will Brady end up?
The Las Vegas Raiders have long been linked with a play for Brady. Head coach Jon Gruden is a huge fan of the experienced QB and his arrival would be a blockbuster move ahead of the team’s first season in their new home city. The Raiders did complete the free agency signing of Marcus Mariota from Tennessee on Monday, but is their intention to make him a very good backup to an ageing Brady? Las Vegas did slide down the betting before the Hall-of-Fame bound QB made his decision public, but they do remain a front-runner for his signature at 6/1.
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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have quickly emerged as the favourites to land Brady after they let Jameis Winston’s deal expire this offseason. The Bucs were reportedly high on New Orleans backup Teddy Bridgewater when free agency opened on Monday, but the bookmakers believe they could shelve any interest the had in the former Minnesota Viking and instead pursue a serial winner in Brady. As a result Tampa Bay are now into 4/9 to be Brady’s next employers.
The Los Angeles Chargers are also considered a front-runner as they move on from Philip Rivers. The Chargers are fighting just to stay relevant in the city after following the Rams to LA, and a 2/1 swoop for Brady would help their cause as they try to build up a fanbase after a 2019 season that saw them struggle to fill their small temporary form, and occasionally see visiting fans outnumber home!
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Also thought to be in the running at 10/1 are New England’s AFC East rivals, the Miami Dolphins, and the Indianapolis Colts, the former home of long-time Brady rival Peyton Manning. The New York Giants, who once ruined Brady and the Patriots quest for perfection are at 16/1.
And what about the Chicago Bears? Of all the teams in the NFL it is their QB situation that is most talked about. Da Bears suffered a major regression in 2019 after making it to the playoffs the year before, and much of the blame was attributed to third-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. General manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy have insisted that Trubisky will still be the team’s starting QB next season, but the window on a Chicago Super Bowl success is shrinking as they try to hold onto that outstanding defense, and because of this they continue to be linked with a string of other QBs. Could the Bears go all in for Brady, who would perhaps play the role of starting QB and mentor to Trubisky? It seems unlikely as far as the bookies are concerned, with odds of 20/1 that Brady makes the ‘Windy City’ his new home.