Robert Kraft is approaching Tom Brady's next chapter like any other New England Patriots fan.

NBC Sports' Peter King asked the Patriots owner prior to Saturday's Wild Card loss to the Tennessee Titans what he thought the future holds for Brady, who becomes a free agent in March and turns 43 in August.

Here was Kraft's answer, via King's "Football Morning in America" column Monday:

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. 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. Blood family. Anyone who’s done that has earned the right to control his future after 20 years.

But does Kraft believe Brady will return to the Patriots in 2020?

"My hope and prayer is number one, he plays for the Patriots," Kraft continued. "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."

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

Kraft obviously will lobby for Brady to stay in New England and has the power to sway the six-time Super Bowl champion with a new contract that meets his demands.

But Kraft seemingly is being realistic that Brady may choose a different path, whether that's retirement or following in the footsteps of Joe Montana and Johnny Unitas by finishing his career with another team.


"I’m thinking of all that, of all the quarterbacks who went elsewhere, and I just hope and believe that Tom ... he is so special that he’s earned the right to do what’s best for him," Kraft added.