But Wednesday’s report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, which details how Brady has not yet committed to playing in 2018, solidifies the fact the franchise has to view Brady as a year-to-year player.
Because of that, they have to plan accordingly, and that starts by approaching the 2018 draft with urgency to solidify their long-term plan at quarterback. Currently, they have Brady and 32-year-old Brian Hoyer on the depth chart.
With two first-round picks (23, 31), two second-round picks (43, 63) and a third-rounder (95), they have the chips to make a move for a quarterback if the right opportunity presents itself.
When: April 26-28
Where: Arlington, Texas
NFL draft coverage » | Full order: 1-256 »
• Barnwell's 2018 All-Trades Mock Draft »
• Mel Kiper's 'Grade: A' mock »
• Kiper's favorite prospects by position »
• Todd McShay's 'Grade: A' mock »
• McShay's tier rankings: 108 prospects »
• Prospects every team should target »
• Football Outsiders' draft guides »
• Dueling two-round mock drafts »
• How '18 QBs grade vs. first-rounders »
• How Barkley grades vs. elite running backs »
• Pos. projections: QBs » WRs » RBs » DEs »
The key dates for more clarity on Brady's status are June 5-7, which is mandatory minicamp. If Brady isn't present for that, it could be viewed as a signal he is seriously thinking about not playing for the Patriots in 2018.
As for the past few times Brady has spoken publicly on his future, two things stand out: his family and his job satisfaction.
In his interview with Michael Strahan on ABC’s “Good Morning America” in early March, Brady was asked if he’s thought about next season.
“Yeah. Definitely,” he answered on the program. “I think it’s just processing what happened last season and how you can be better at the next season. There’s no real formula for it. Every year is a little bit different. There are different things happening in your life, outside of football. My kids are getting older. I think one thing that’s got a little challenging, as you get older, is that there’s different priorities and different commitments. You’ve got to be able to allocate your time the right way and there’s a lot of people that really need your time and attention.
“How you find that balance, really, was a big part of what ‘Tom vs. Time’ was all about – trying to find some balance between my family life and what my kids need, and what my wife needs, and what my football team needs. … Sometimes it gets out of balance and you have to figure out how to bring it back to a point where it feels great for everybody involved.”
And back at the Super Bowl, I asked him about his future.
"Why does everyone want me to retire so bad?" he said with a chuckle. "I don't get it. I'm having fun. The team's doing good. I know I'm a little bit older than most of the guys, but I'm really enjoying it. Obviously, I enjoy the experience of playing in this game. This has been obviously a dream come true many times over.”
To think that dream could end in 2018 would be a nightmare scenario for the Patriots, especially after they traded backup Jimmy Garoppolo last October.
It seems highly unlikely.
At the same time, it is safe to say that the urgency to solidify plans for when Brady is no longer playing for the Patriots has never been higher.