Tom Brady says he will be leaving the New England Patriots, the team he led to six Super Bowl championships.
In a statement posted to his social media accounts, Brady, 42, thanked the New England fans for their years of support but said, “It is time for me to open a new stage for my life and career.”
Robert K. Kraft, the owner of the Patriots, said Brady called Monday night and asked if he could visit Kraft’s home in Brookline, Mass., a suburb of Boston. Kraft said that he had hoped Brady wanted to talk about finding a way to remain in New England. But when he arrived, Brady told Kraft that he was moving on from the Patriots.
“My first choice was to keep him,” Kraft said in a telephone interview. “If he wanted to be with us, we could have worked something out.”
Kraft said the team could have put a franchise tag on Brady to prevent him from leaving, “but anyone who’s spent 20 years with us and won six Super Bowls earned the right to his freedom.”
Kraft said Brady, who has spent nearly half his life with the Patriots, was “like a son” to him. He described their discussion as “very positive, loving and respectful.”
“It was very emotional for us,” Kraft said. “When you think about the discussions within a family, it’s hard for people outside the family to understand.”
Kraft said that the Patriots were “just adjusting to this news” and that it would change the team’s draft strategy and how it looks at the free agent market.
Kraft and Patriots coach Bill Belichick released statements on Brady’s departure. “Nothing about the end of Tom’s Patriots career changes how unfathomably spectacular it was,” Belichick said. “With his relentless competitiveness and longevity, he earned everyone’s adoration and will be celebrated forever. It has been a privilege to coach Tom Brady for 20 years.”
A sixth-round draft pick out of Michigan in 2000, Brady was thrust into the role of starter in 2001, after an injury to the Patriots’ incumbent, Drew Bledsoe. Since then Brady has been a constant for the franchise, leading it to nine Super Bowls, with the most recent title coming after the 2018 season.
But this season Brady’s statistics slipped somewhat, and the Patriots had to play in the wild-card round of the playoffs, rather than getting a bye week, for the first time in 10 years. Despite being 6-point favorites and playing at home, they lost to the Tennessee Titans.
After that defeat, Brady said retirement was “pretty unlikely.” Knowing he was due to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career, he also seemed to be turning a page that day, making past-tense statements like “I was proud to be a part of this team.”
Brady’s backup was the rookie Jarrett Stidham, who has won praise for his practice-field play but has taken only a handful of snaps in regular-season games.
Brady, a certain Hall of Famer, ranks second to Drew Brees on the N.F.L.’s career list for completions, passing yards and touchdowns.
He also was at the center of one of the biggest sporting contretemps of the decade, Deflategate, when the Patriots were accused of deflating balls at his urging to gain a competitive advantage. He was suspended for four games over the incident, but always denied involvement.
Ben Hoffman contributed reporting.