Tom Brady said Tuesday that he is leaving the New England Patriots. The legendary quarterback, who has six Super Bowl rings, made the announcement in a series of tweets.
He thanked Patriots fans for their support, but said that his "football journey" will continue "elsewhere."
Brady, 42, is a four-time Super Bowl Most Valuable Player and three-time league MVP. The 199th pick in the 2000 NFL draft, Brady has been the face of the Patriots for two decades. He did not indicate where he would play next.
"I don't know what my football future holds but it is time for me to open a new stage for my life and career," he wrote.
Contract negotiations between the quarterback and his longtime team came to a head during last offseason, leaving Brady without a contract extension. After the Patriots lost in the first round of the playoffs, speculation mounted that Brady might soon leave.
In a statement posted on the Patriots website Tuesday, the team said that Brady "will become an unrestricted free agent on Wednesday, March 18, concluding his illustrious Patriots career."
Owner Robert Kraft said he "hoped this day would never come, but rather that Tom would end his remarkable career in a Patriots uniform after yet another Super Bowl championship."
"Unfortunately, the two sides were unable to reach an agreement to allow that dream to become a reality," Kraft said. "While sad today, the overwhelming feeling I have is appreciation for his countless contributions to our team and community."
Kraft told ESPN Tuesday that he and Brady discussed his decision only the night before.
"Tommy initiated contact last night and came over. We had a positive, respectful discussion," Kraft said. "It's not the way I want it to end, but I want him to do what is in his best personal interest. After 20 years with us, he has earned that right. I love him like a son.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said in his own statement that "nothing about the end of Tom's Patriots career changes how unfathomably spectacular it was."
"Sometimes in life, it takes some time to pass before truly appreciating something or someone but that has not been the case with Tom," he said. "He is a special person and the greatest quarterback of all-time."