For the first time in his career, Tom Brady heads into an offseason with his future with the Patriots in doubt. The 42-year-old is set to become a free agent, which is an unprecedented development after 20 years in New England.
Of course, Brady could still return to the Patriots. Team owner Robert Kraft made his thoughts clear on the issue when asked by NFL insider Peter King.
“I just hope and pray we fit into his plans,” Kraft told King before the Patriots’ disappointing playoff loss on Saturday. “He is unique in the kind of leader he is, his work ethic, his selfless nature, everything. Think about it: He’s been with us 20 percent of the life of the NFL.”
Kraft admitted that Brady — who was drafted by the Patriots in 2000 and has been with the team since — has more than earned the freedom to choose his future.
“Before the season started, it was very important to Tom that he be free to do whatever he wanted at the end of the year,” Kraft explained to King. “You know what I said to myself? That any person who plays 20 years for this team and helps us get to six Super Bowls, and been really selfless, has earned that right.
“I love the young man like he’s part of my family,” Kraft continued. “Blood family. Anyone who’s done that has earned the right to control his future after 20 years. And you know, my hope and prayer is number one, he play for the Patriots. Or number two, he retires. He has the freedom to decide what he wants to do and what’s in his own best personal interest.”
Brady’s contract voids on March 17, one day before the new league year formally begins. He will then become an unrestricted free agent.
Hayden Bird can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on twitter at @haydenhbird.