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The most tantalizing storyline of the 2016 NFL season — Tom Brady’s return to football — has yet to unfold. But that’s not doing much to curb speculation about his future in New England, especially considering Jimmy Garoppolo just displayed the makings of a franchise quarterback in his two starts.

The question is now beginning to shift from how much longer will Brady play, to how much longer will Brady play in a Patriots uniform? There are a handful of scenarios that could answer that question and the most likely of them lacks a storybook ending.

Brady’s current contract will expire in 2017, while Garoppolo will become a free agent after the 2017 season. NESN sees five different options that could unfold, and listed this very interesting one:

  • Keep Brady as the starter for 2016 and 2017, make a long-term deal with Garoppolo and get rid of Brady after the 2017 season

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That’s the most likely scenario, NESN says. It makes the most sense that, at 39, Father Time is about to make a run at Brady, and although he actually saw a bit of an increase in some of his output last season, the odds are heavily stacked against him being able to maintain such a high level for any more than another couple of years. That would leave Garoppolo getting the start at age 26.

Whatever happens, there’s a soap opera taking shape in New England that’s rife with the kind of drama that could easily satisfy both sides—the Patriot fanboys and the rest of us.

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