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Brady leaving Patriots, Brees stays

FILE - In this Feb. 5, 2017, file photo, New England Patriots' Tom Brady raises the Vince Lombardi Trophy after defeating the Atlanta Falcons in overtime at the NFL Super Bowl 51 football game in Houston. Tom Brady is an NFL free agent for the first time in his career. The 42-year-old quarterback with six Super Bowl rings said Tuesday morning, March 17, 2020, that he is leaving the New England Patriots. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)

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.

Also Tuesday:

–Bryan Bulaga agreed to a contract with the Chargers. He spent the past 10 seasons with Green Bay and will turn 31 on Saturday. He is likely to start at right tackle and will be reunited with James Campen, who was Bulaga’s line coach at Green Bay and was recently hired by Los Angeles.

–Linebacker Thomas Davis said he’s reuniting with former coach Ron Rivera and signing with the Redskins. Davis, 36, played under Rivera with Carolina for eight seasons and had the best years of his career.

–Jason Witten is headed to Las Vegas, where Jon Gruden is the coach. Coincidentally, Witten replaced Gruden as the analyst on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” in 2018, then went back to play again with the Cowboys.

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