The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the expected landing spot for quarterback Tom Brady, barring any unforeseen circumstances, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Jeff Darlington.
There is no signing date or announcement officially set up, but Brady is expected to be a Buccaneer.
“Although my football journey will take place elsewhere, I appreciate everything that we have achieved and am grateful for our incredible TEAM accomplishments,” he wrote.
Brady, 42, leaves New England with six Super Bowl rings and 41 playoff starts since 2001.
In recent years, Brady has repeatedly said that his goal is to play until he is 45, but he and the Patriots couldn’t come to an agreement on a contract extension last offseason. That created a path for Brady to explore his options as a free agent. And after a 2019 season in which he showed visible frustration at times and the offensively challenged Patriots uncharacteristically lost in the wild-card round of the playoffs, Brady told Westwood One radio that he was “open-minded about the process.”
Bucs coach Bruce Arians spoke glowingly of Brady earlier this offseason.
When asked at the NFL scouting combine who was the one quarterback for whom he’d pick up the phone, if available, Arians did not hesitate.
“Tom Brady,” he said with chuckle.
Weeks later, Arians’ “Hail Mary” attempt appears to have landed him the most decorated star quarterback in NFL history.
Brady’s signing will officially end Jameis Winston‘s reign as Tampa Bay’s starting quarterback.
Winston has long considered meeting Brady one of the highlights of his young career. The two squared off in a nationally televised game on a Thursday night in 2017, with Brady’s Patriots holding off the host Bucs 19-14. It was Brady’s only career game at Raymond James Stadium.
Winston said at the time, “I dream to be able to be the type of quarterback he is for his team to our team.”
The Bucs had hoped Winston could blossom into the franchise quarterback they needed him to be, selecting him first overall in the 2015 NFL draft. But turnovers plagued him throughout the past five seasons, just as they did in college. His 88 interceptions and 111 turnovers are both the most by any player in the league since 2015.
The Bucs believe they exhausted every effort with Winston. They fired head coach Lovie Smith and promoted offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter because they believed Koetter’s work with Winston was too valuable.
This past year, the Bucs fired Koetter after three seasons and brought in Arians, the “Quarterback Whisperer,” while surrounding Winston with two 1,100-yard Pro Bowl receivers in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin and bringing in coordinator Todd Bowles on defense.
Winston led the NFL with 5,109 passing yards in 2019 but also became the first NFL quarterback to throw 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions — and those 30 interceptions became too much for an organization that has insisted it isn’t rebuilding and is very much in “win-now” mode under Arians.
Arians has encouraged aggressive quarterback play in terms of air yards per attempt in his work with Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck, Carson Palmer and Winston. Brady finished last season ranked 26th in the NFL in average pass distance.
In addition, Brady has finished in the top 10 in air yards per attempt only once since ESPN began tracking the stat in 2006, and that was in his 2017 MVP campaign.
Brady has five times as many playoff wins, six times as many Super Bowl wins and seven times as many 30-touchdown seasons as all the quarterbacks in Buccaneers history. He could lose his next 283 starts and still have a better career record than the Bucs franchise.
“I’m instantly thinking, ‘We’re gonna be a contender, we’re gonna be a playoff contender,'” Bucs linebacker Shaquil Barrett said of his reaction to the news in an interview with ESPN’s Wendi Nix, “and that’s all I want to do is play winning football again and try to get a championship, so that’s a step in the right direction.”
Barrett wasn’t the only one pleased by the news of Brady’s impending signing. Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, while reminding his constituents that bars and restaurants are open for takeout and delivery only amid the coronavirus pandemic, added, “So for those of you that want to celebrate Tom Brady leaving the New England Patriots, and hopefully leaving the AFC East: There are no mass gatherings. Celebrate responsibly, celebrate at home, and with less than 10 people present.”
Brady could be returning to Foxborough, Massachusetts, in 2021, as the Patriots are scheduled to host the Buccaneers that season. Tampa, meanwhile, will host Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7, 2021.
Caesars Sportsbook moved the Bucs’ Super Bowl odds from 40-1 to 30-1 Tuesday morning after Brady posted that he wasn’t going back to New England. Those odds were moved down to 22-1 at 4:45 p.m. ET Tuesday after some bets came in amid reports.
Caesars plans to keep Tampa Bay’s odds at 22-1 to win the Super Bowl and 10-1 to win the NFC once Brady officially signs.
ESPN’s Jenna Laine and ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this report.