- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Tom Brady waited 171 words into his statement Tuesday to announce he was leaving the New England Patriots. But the overall effect was still the same: It rocked the NFL world.

After 20 years, Brady is moving on from the Patriots and will sign elsewhere in free agency. Brady’s decision kicked off a historic day for NFL quarterbacks in which Teddy Bridgewater and Philip Rivers ended up with new teams and the Carolina Panthers made it clear former MVP Cam Newton would not be on the team next season.

The only move of the day that seemed like a formality was when Drew Brees agreed to stay in New Orleans on a two-year, $50 million contract. But with the several other high-profile quarterbacks changing jerseys, fans are sure to see a dramatic impact on the NFL next season.

The league’s landscape will be different with Brady, 42, no longer working with Bill Belichick, a pair that won six Super Bowls. National outlets reported late Tuesday that Brady planned to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when the league year begins Wednesday. The Los Angeles Chargers also were interested in the future Hall of Famer.

“Although my football journey will take place elsewhere, I appreciate everything that we have achieved and am grateful for our incredible team accomplishments,” Brady wrote on social media. “I have been privileged to have had the opportunity to know each and everyone of you, and to have the memories we’ve created together.”

Said Belichick: “Tom’s success as a player and his character as a person are exceptional.  Nothing about the end of Tom’s Patriots career changes how unfathomably spectacular it was.”

The only quarterbacks left on the Patriots’ roster are Jarrett Stidham and Cody Kessler. The Patriots will almost certainly look to add at the position, either by signing someone or acquiring one through a trade.

Perhaps Newton will be an option. The 30-year-old was made available after the Panthers announced they had given the three-time Pro Bowler permission to seek a trade, paving the way for a split between the two after nine years.

Newton, though, made it clear he didn’t request to move on from the Panthers.

“Stop with the word play,” Newton said on Instagram, commenting on a Panthers post. “I never asked for it!! There’s no dodging this one. I love the Panthers to death and will always love you guys. Please do not try and play me or manipulate the narrative and act like I wanted this. You forced me into this!!”

The Washington Redskins will also be seen as a logical spot for Newton, given coach Ron Rivera spent nine years with him in Carolina. Last month, Rivera, too, said he wanted to create a “very competitive” competition for starter Dwayne Haskins.

Newton’s health could give teams pause. Newton appeared in only two games in 2019 and underwent season-ending foot surgery in December. His 2018 season was also hampered by a shoulder injury, something that required a procedure after the year.

Asked about Newton at the NFL combine, Rivera only had positive things to say.

“I don’t want to talk about another team’s players, but one thing I will say,” Rivera said, “I would never bet against Cam Newton.”

If the Panthers can’t find a trade partner, The Athletic reported Newton will likely be released. As of now, Newton carries a $21 million cap hit next season as he’s set to enter the final year of his deal.

The Panthers, meanwhile, quickly lined up their replacement for Newton — giving Bridgewater a three-year, $60 million contract. Last season, Bridgewater went 5-0 as a starter after Drew Brees missed an extended stretch with a thumb injury. In those games, the 27-year-old had a passer rating of 103.7 and threw for 1,205 yards and nine touchdowns to just two interceptions.

Carolina has spent the last few months beginning a rebuild under owner David Tepper. It hired coach Matt Rhule from Baylor and got rid of veterans like Greg Olsen and guard Trai Turner. Tepper has said he felt a change was necessary and how he can’t stand mediocrity.

The Panthers, though, aren’t the only team who hit reset at quarterback. The Colts are bringing in Rivers after starter Jacoby Brissett tapered off near the end of a disappointing 7-9 season.

Rivers, 39, spent the first 16 years of his NFL career with the Chargers. He agreed to join the Colts on a one-year deal, ESPN reported.

The Colts, who were shocked when Andrew Luck abruptly retired a week before the 2019 season began, hope Rivers can be the solution at quarterback. Colts coach Frank Reich spent three years coaching Rivers with the Chargers: one season as his quarterbacks coach and another two as the offensive coordinator.

Rivers is set up to compete right away. The Colts have a talented supporting cast, particularly up front with an offensive line anchored by tackle Anthony Castonzo and guard Quenton Nelson. Rivers ranks sixth in both passing yards (59,271) and passing touchdowns (397) all-time — yet he is the only quarterback in the top 10 of either category never to reach a Super Bowl.

Where does that leave the quarterback carousel? Multiple reports have indicated teams have reached out to the Jaguars to inquire about Nick Foles’ availability in a trade. The Cincinnati Bengals are also looking to move on from Andy Dalton as they prepare to draft LSU’s Joe Burrow with the first overall pick in April.

And former No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston — who became the first quarterback to throw for 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in the same season for Tampa Bay in 2019 — is an unrestricted free agent.

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