PHOENIX — Could New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady really play until he’s 46 or 47 years old?
That’s the target range Brady highlighted in a recent conversation with owner Robert Kraft.
“As recently as 2-3 days ago, he assured me he’d be willing to play six to seven more years and at the level he performed,” Kraft said Monday at the NFL’s annual meeting. “There’s no one that would be happier than I, and our fan base.”
Brady turns 40 on Aug. 3, and the question of how much longer he’ll play has been widely discussed and analyzed, in part because it could affect the Patriots’ plans with backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who enters the final year of his contract.
Brady enters his 18th season with the Patriots in 2017, and if he were to reach his goal of six or seven more years with New England, he would smash former Detroit Lions kicker Jason Hanson’s NFL record of the most seasons with one team (21).
Only Hanson, Washington Redskins cornerback Darrell Green (20) and Los Angeles Rams offensive tackle Jackie Slater (20) have spent at least 20 seasons with one team.
While Kraft said he would be thrilled if Brady could play into his mid-40s, he acknowledged that Brady would be beating long odds for starting quarterbacks if he did.
“I think there’s one player at the age of 40 who had one good year: [Brett] Favre, for the Vikings. He didn’t do so well before,” he said.
Steve DeBerg, Warren Moon and Vinny Testaverde, all at age 44, are the oldest quarterbacks to have been on an NFL roster, according to data tracked by the Pro Football Hall of Fame. George Blanda played until he was 48, but was primarily a kicker late in his career.
Kraft said the way Brady lives his life could give him a chance to make history while reaching his goal.
“I think Tommy’s sustained excellence is just unbelievable. It’s a lifestyle. He’s in training now, it’s not like he’s stopped,” he relayed.
“I remember after our first Super Bowl in ’01, going down in the training room in the old Foxboro Stadium, three days after we won, he’s in there with the music blaring working out. He’s really dedicated. The thing that’s amazing about him, to this day he hasn’t changed as a human being in how he relates to people, but also how he works out. The only thing that’s probably changed is how he eats and his diet. I’m not sure avocado ice cream is right for me, but if I could look like him and perform half as well, I guess I’d do it.”
As for the 24-year-old Garoppolo, he could provide insurance behind Brady in 2017 before the club could potentially lose him as a free agent in 2018. Because of that, Kraft was asked if there was any scenario in which the Patriots might be inclined to trade Garoppolo this year.
“I don’t have the right demeanor of our coach; I charge him to handle all football matters,” he said. “We’re privileged to have the greatest quarterback in the history of the game, and it looks like he’s playing pretty solid. He’s off the charts, in my opinion, and we’re lucky to have him.
“That’s the most important position on the team, needless to say. I don’t think anyone could say you have too much depth at that position. I’ve charged him to make those decisions. I’ll leave that with him.”