Patriots ownership loves Malcolm Butler, and Tom Brady thinks he can play until he’s 46. Those are the two most meaningful takeaways from Monday’s brief press junket with New England owner Robert Kraft.
Kraft gave reporters an impromptu state-of-the-Patriots address during the NFL owners meeting Monday afternoon in Arizona. Though he didn’t dive too deeply into the status of the team he helms, he did have some interesting sentiments on two of the franchise’s All-Pro players.
Tom Brady wants to play through his mid-40s
When it comes to Brady, the five-time Super Bowl champion, Kraft doesn’t see his G.O.A.T passer stepping away from the game anytime soon. The owner spoke with his star player recently, and when the conversation shifted to the future, Brady made clear his intention to play well into middle age.
"As recently as two or three days ago, [Brady] assured me that he'd be willing to play another six or seven years," Kraft told the press. If the 12-time Pro Bowler can meet the upper limit of his expectations, he’d be playing until he’s 46 years old. While that may seem unlikely, the 2000 NFL draft pick just set a league record for best touchdown-to-interception ratio at age 39.
That six-to-seven-year time frame jives with the Patriots’ plans to extend his contract by another three to five years this offseason. He’s currently signed with the team through the 2019 season.
Brady’s longevity is good news for New England, but it also throws the status of backup Jimmy Garoppolo into question. Kraft was non-committal when asked about the young passer’s future, instead deferring to head coach Bill Belichick on the matter.
#Patriots owner Robert Kraft was asked at owners meetings if NE would trade QB Jimmy Garoppolo. He said he'd leave that to Bill Belichick.— Nate Ulrich (@NateUlrichABJ) March 27, 2017
Kraft thinks Bill Belichick could coach for another two decades
If Brady sticks through the mid-2020s, Kraft thinks Bill Belichick will be there to coach him every step of the way. He explained his reasoning as only an uber-wealthy 75-year-old can.
"I hope he coaches into his 80s,” he told The MMQB’s Albert Breer. “I see Warren Buffett and Rupert Murdoch in their mid-80s and they're performing well."
Belichick is only 64 years old, so extending his career another 16-plus years would likely extend him beyond Brady’s retirement and into a new era for the Patriots.
Malcolm Butler has a place with the Patriots ... as long as Bill Belichick doesn’t trade him
Kraft’s press conference also touched on the other side of the ball, where Butler may be the best available player on the market — though as a restricted free agent, the Patriots still hold a tremendous amount of leverage over him.
Robert Kraft on Malcolm Butler: “I hope he’s with us.”— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) March 27, 2017
So the intention isn’t to trade him?
However, Belichick will most likely have the final say in that personnel decision, and the franchise has proven time and time again no player is safe when the price is right. If Butler does indeed leave the team this offseason, Kraft may have a replacement in mind. Former Patriot Darrelle Revis is currently a free agent, and the longtime owner was excited by the idea of a reunion.
As Kraft walks off, @garymyersNYDN asks him about Revis. “I would love it if he comes back.”— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) March 27, 2017
Revis would be cold comfort in the wake of Butler’s departure. The former All-Pro is a shell of the player he was when he won a Super Bowl with the Patriots. However, with a loaded draft for defensive backs looming in April, it may make sense for New England to part ways with its homegrown shutdown corner in exchange for picks this spring.