The unimaginable has happened to Patriots fans: Tom Brady is moving on.
The predictable has occurred for Saints fans: Drew Brees is staying put.
No matter what else happens in NFL free agency on Tuesday, decisions by those two iconic quarterbacks deserve headlines. And those decisions were as divergent as the regions they have played in.
Brady will be 43 when the next NFL season begins. He also brings with him six Super Bowl rings, four Super Bowl MVP trophies and three regular-season MVP awards. Simply put, he’s the most successful quarterback in pro football history.
And he’s available.
“I don’t know what my football future holds, but it is time for me to open a new stage for my life and my career,” he wrote. “Although my football journey will take place elsewhere, I appreciate everything that we have achieved and am grateful for our incredible TEAM experiences.”
Those experiences — nine Super Bowl trips, six wins — ended with a home loss to Tennessee in the wild-card round in January.
As a memento for Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who referred to Brady as being like a son, the team will take a $13.5 million salary cap hit because of the signing bonus Brady got for his one-year deal for the 2019 season.
No such issues in the Big Easy. Brees made things, well, easy for the Saints, making it clear he wasn’t leaving New Orleans or Sean Payton’s offense despite having his contract run out.
Brees, 41, agreed to a two-year, $50 million contract, a person familiar with the situation said. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity on Tuesday because the deal has not been announced.
The 19-year veteran with one NFL title in New Orleans basically gave a hometown discount to the Saints. His deal will not put him in the top 10 quarterbacks for annual salary. But the career leader in completions with 6,867, yards passing with 77,416, and touchdowns with 547 believes New Orleans offers the best place for him to win another championship.
Brees missed five games with a throwing hand injury that required surgery last season, but still helped New Orleans to a third straight playoff appearance.
Another veteran QB found his landing spot when Philip Rivers agreed to join the Colts. Rivers spent the past 16 seasons with the Chargers, first in San Diego and then in Los Angeles.
Rivers agreed to a one-year contract with Indianapolis. The Colts get a 38-year-old quarterback coming off one of his worst seasons with 23, touchdown passes and 20 interceptions. But Rivers ranks sixth in league history in completions, yards passing and TD passes and seventh in attempts and is 123-101 as an NFL starter. He hasn’t missed a start since 2005.
Rivers will reunite with coach Frank Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni. Reich was Chargers quarterbacks coach in 2013 and the offensive coordinator in 2014 and 2015. Sirianni spent five seasons in San Diego, two as quarterbacks coach.
Incumbent Jacoby Brissett now figures to be job hunting. The Colts acquired him in a 2017 trade with the Patriots — who just happen to have an opening behind center.
And one more star passer, Cam Newton, will be departing Carolina. Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said Tuesday on Twitter that “every year difficult decisions are made and they are never easy.”
Newton, the 2015 NFL MVP, said on social media he didn’t ask for the trade, telling the Panthers: “You forced me into this.”
Other quarterbacks’ fates were being decided Tuesday, the second day on which players’ representatives could negotiate with teams. No deals can become official until the league business year begins Wednesday at 4 p.m. EDT.
—Philadelphia won’t be keeping star safety Malcolm Jenkins, who led the Eagles’ defense when it won the 2017 league title. Jenkins spent the last six of his 11 NFL seasons in Philly.
—Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips has agreed to sign with the Cardinals. The 6-foot-6, 341-pound Phillips just finished a breakout season for the Bills with a career-high 9 1/2 sacks. Phillips was claimed off waivers by Buffalo after he was released by the Dolphins shortly after getting into a sideline argument with an assistant coach. He fills a major need for Arizona’s defense, which gave up the most total yards in the NFL last season.
—The Jaguars have agreed to terms with free agent linebacker Joe Schobert, who spent the past four years in Cleveland, where he led the team in tackles twice and made a Pro Bowl. The deal is for $53.75 million over five years, and includes $22.5 million guaranteed.
—The Ravens fortified their defensive front with Michael Brockers, who agreed to terms on a three-year contract after spending his first eight pro seasons with the Rams. Brockers, 29, had a career-high 63 tackles in 2019, along with three sacks.
Baltimore already added veteran edge rusher Calais Campbell, obtained Sunday in a pending trade with Jacksonville.
—Chicago agreed to a five-year, $70 million deal with defensive end Robert Quinn, who gets $30 million guaranteed. The Bears added a solid pass rusher to outside linebacker Khalil Mack. Quinn had 11 1/2 sacks last year following a trade to Dallas from Miami. He served a two-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancers.
—Miami and defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah agreed to a $15 million, two-year contract. Ogbah had 5½ sacks last year for the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. He also spent three years with the Cleveland Browns and has 18 sacks in four seasons.
—The Giants reached contract agreements with Packers middle linebacker Blake Martinez and Panthers cornerback James Bradberry. The Giants also agreed on a deal with veteran blocking tight end tight end Levine Toilolo.
New York had one of the NFL’s worst defenses last season.
—Buffalo grabbed Carolina defensive end Mario Addison and New Orleans linebacker A.J. Klein. The 32-year-old Addison has had nine or more sacks in each of his past four seasons. The 28-year-old Klein is projected to take for Lorenzo Alexander, who has retired.
—Tampa Bay will be re-signing linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul to a two-year, $27 million contract. Pierre-Paul has 21 sacks since being acquired from the Giants two years ago. He had 8½ in 10 games last season after recovering from a neck injury suffered in an offseason automobile accident. The two-time Pro Bowl selection has 79½ sacks in 10 NFL seasons.