NFL: Tom Brady says goodbye to New England Patriots

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady passes the ball in Houston, US, on Dec 1, 2019. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

(REUTERS) - National Football League (NFL) superstar Tom Brady broke up with the New England Patriots in an early morning Instagram post on Tuesday.

Brady, an unrestricted free agent for the first time, posted a farewell message to New England on Tuesday but did not identify his destination in a series of messages via Instagram at 5.45am ET.

The public goodbye was a formal farewell but not the only contact Brady had with the team.

Owner Robert Kraft, who deferred to coach Bill Belichick in negotiations, said Brady called him on Monday and the two met at Kraft's residence.

Kraft had been adamant his preference was for Brady to return.

Brady was permitted to discuss contracts with other teams as of noon ET on Monday.

He can officially sign with another team on Wednesday.

"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.

He started every game for the Patriots in 2019, including the wild-card play-off loss to the Tennessee Titans.

The defeat followed the Patriots winning the American Football Conference East division for the 17th time in Brady's 20 seasons.

The 42-year-old is being pursued by multiple teams. Among those known to have met with him are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Miami Dolphins, but several other franchises were connected to Brady during the off-season.

Belichick said in a lengthy statement he has limitless examples of Brady's greatness.

"Tom was not just a player who bought into our programme. He was one of its original creators," Belichick said in part of his statement.

"Tom lived and perpetuated our culture. On a daily basis, he was a tone setter and a bar raiser.

"He won championships in three of his first four years on the field and in three of his final six seasons with us, while competing for championships in most every season in between.

"This is a credit to Tom's consistency and what separates him. He didn't just perform. He didn't just win. He won championships over and over again. Tom and I will always have a great relationship built on love, admiration, respect and appreciation."

Kraft said in a statement we was eternally grateful for Brady's contributions.

"How do I possibly sum up the depth of my gratitude to Tom Brady for what he's given us these past 20 years, or the sadness I feel knowing it's ending? I love Tom like a son and I always will. He has brought so much happiness to me personally and to all of our fans," Kraft said in a statement.

"I had 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.

"While sad today, the overwhelming feeling I have is appreciation for his countless contributions to our team and community."

He won six Super Bowl rings with the Patriots and is a three-time NFL Most Valuable Player.

He negotiated a restructured contract for the 2019 season which stipulated he could not be designated a franchise player and would be a free agent.

He played 20 seasons in New England and 13 times the Patriots posted at least 12 victories.

The Patriots played in the conference championship game 13 times during Brady's run with the team.

The Patriots reportedly had interest in Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and New Orleans Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who is an unrestricted free agent.

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