Even with Super Bowl LIV mere days away from kicking off, the NFL world has shifted its focus to a cryptic post on social media by one of the game's most famous players: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
Though impossible to derive any definitive meaning from the tweet, Brady's post has sparked speculation that the six-time champion will leave his longtime NFL home or perhaps even retire. Brady previously stated his intention to continue his career in 2020 during a postgame press conference following the Patriots' loss to the Tennessee Titans in the wild-card round, though he left the door open for a change of heart with his comments. "I would say it's pretty unlikely," Brady said about the prospect of retiring this offseason. "Hopefully, unlikely."
Due to a restructuring of his contract last offseason, Brady will become an unrestricted free agent in March for the first time in his career. The contract also stipulates that the Patriots cannot use the franchise or transition tag on Brady to remove him from the open market. The deal doesn't preclude the three-time MVP quarterback from re-signing with New England, but it will allow him to talk with other teams once the legal-tampering period begins in mid-March if he remains interested in playing. While Brady has not discussed any potential destinations, speculation has ramped up that the Los Angeles Chargers could make a push for him.
Brady joined the Patriots as a sixth-round pick in the 2000 NFL Draft and became the starter a year later after an injury to Drew Bledsoe. Brady went on to start nearly every game for the franchise since, missing only 19 games over the subsequent 18 seasons (15 games for a torn ACL in 2008, four games due to a suspension in 2016). He currently ranks second all-time in passing yards (74,571) and touchdown throws (541). The Patriots have won six championships with Brady under center.
-- Jason B. Hirschhorn is an award-winning sports journalist and Pro Football Writers of America member. Follow him on Twitter: @by_JBH