Tom Brady, the only N.F.L. quarterback to win six Super Bowls, is headed to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
After telling the New England Patriots, the only club he has played for in his 20-year career, that he would not return to the team this week, Brady posted to Instagram a picture of his signing a new contract with Tampa Bay.
“I’m starting a new football journey and thankful for the @buccaneers for giving me an opportunity to do what I love to do,” Brady wrote.
The deal with the 42-year old quarterback, which had been expected to be completed since reports leaked Tuesday, was confirmed in a statement released by the Buccaneers.
Brady will be paid a guaranteed annual salary of $25 million for two years, with $4.5 million in incentives each year, according to a person with knowledge of the quarterback’s plans who spoke on condition of anonymity and was not authorized to speak publicly. Brady, who restructured his contract several times to help the Patriots stay below the salary cap, has not previously earned more than $23 million in a single season.
“I’ve known Tom since we drafted him in New England 20 years ago and through this process it became very clear that his desire to be a champion burns as strong today as it ever has,” said Jason Licht, Tampa Bay’s general manager. Licht was a scout for the Patriots when the team drafted Brady in 2000.
The deal is by far the most momentous of an already busy off-season in which several teams, including the Chargers, Colts and Panthers, have sought new quarterbacks. But with six rings and no desire to slow down, Brady is easily the biggest acquisition in the Tampa Bay franchise’s 44-year history.
Brady, who turns 43 in August, will be out to show that he can lead a team not overseen by Bill Belichick, his only head coach in the pros. In a league with a salary cap that limits how much each teams can spend on its entire roster, Brady has several times avoided the free agency market and took less money to remain in New England before entering free agency this season.
For months, Brady was asked whether he would finish his career with the Patriots, an outcome that looked less and less likely as the 2019 season went on. Brady said several times last year that he wanted to return to New England, but Belichick would not give a firm commitment.
Several teams were thought to be seeking Brady, including the Los Angeles Chargers, who need to replace Philip Rivers, their longtime quarterback. Rivers has reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with the Indianapolis Colts.
The Buccaneers joined the hunt for Brady after appearing to have lost patience with quarterback Jameis Winston, who is an unrestricted free agent. Their head coach, Bruce Arians, is considered an offensive mastermind, having led high-powered offenses in Pittsburgh and Arizona. He was also Peyton Manning’s quarterback coach in Indianpolis. Last season, Arians’s first with Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers had the third-best offense in the N.F.L., averaging nearly 400 yards a game. Wide receiver Chris Godwin averaged 95 receiving yards per game, the second most in the league.
Successful second acts are hard, though. Only a handful of marquee quarterbacks have left their longtime teams and won Super Bowl titles elsewhere.
Joe Montana led the Kansas City Chiefs to the A.F.C. championship game in the 1994 playoffs after winning four Super Bowls in 14 seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. Brett Favre took the Minnesota Vikings to the N.F.C. championship game 10 years ago after winning one Super Bowl trophy in 16 seasons with the Green Bay Packers. Peyton Manning won one Super Bowl in 13 years with the Indianapolis Colts, then a second title in his fourth and final year with the Denver Broncos.
Regardless of how Brady performs in a new uniform, his legacy is established. In addition to the six championships, nine Super Bowl appearances and 17 division titles, Brady has thrown for 74,571 yards and 541 touchdowns, trailing only Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints in both categories.
Attention will be heaped on Tampa Bay, which will host the Super Bowl next February. The team has had only one winning season in the past decade, and has not qualified for the postseason since 2007. The Buccaneers have not won a playoff game since the 2002 season, when the team claimed its only Super Bowl championship.
Even so, fans are already banking on Brady leading their team back to the playoffs. Thousands of fans flooded the Buccaneers’ team website after the first stories about Brady heading to Tampa started surfacing on Tuesday. The Buccaneers averaged 51,898 fans at Raymond James Stadium last season, 30th in the 32-team league.