Patriots

Tom Brady knows this might be the last go-round for this iteration of the Patriots

Patriots

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady's been around too long to assume that this is going to last forever. 

What the Patriots have now -- with Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and other key components to the team's last two Super Bowl championships still playing for Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels -- isn't sustainable. The quarterback will freely admit that.

So does this run, with the Patriots getting the No. 2 seed in the conference and an outside shot at homefield advantage throughout the postseason, feel like the last go-round for this iteration of the Patriots dynasty? 

"I think that every year things change in the NFL," Brady said. "Really, this '18 team won't be the same in '19. And the '17 team wasn't the same as this team. And the '16 team wasn't the same as the '17 team. 

"I think one thing that's certain in the NFL is change. Coaches, players. I don't think it's a big secret that people are just moving on."

Gronkowski, 29, still has a year left on his contract after this one but was non-committal to the future when pressed about the topic last week. Edelman, 33, has a year remaining on his deal as well. 

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Patriots headed to free agency this offseason include Trey Flowers, Trent Brown, Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, Jason McCourty, Danny Shelton and Cordarrelle Patterson. The Patriots also built in potential outs to their pacts with two of their highest-paid defenders -- Dont'a Hightower and Devin McCourty -- following the 2018 season. 

 

Josh McDaniels could find himself coaching the Packers in 2019. Or he could be back. Brian Flores could find himself leading one of several franchises that have shown interest in him as a head coach. Or he could be back.

Even if we aren't exactly sure when this party will be breaking up, this team, with this group of individuals playing at this level, and this group of coaches, very likely won't be the same in 2019. 

Brady has seen versions of this dynasty slowly dissolve before. That's the way he's been programmed over the course of the last two decades.

Patriots legends. Coaches. Friends. 

Every offseason. Change. Like the tides.

Even with this group. Gronkowski and Edelman are probably two of Brady's most beloved and respected -- not to mention productive -- teammates of the last 19 years. McDaniels and Brady have worked together closely for 12 years. Brady has to know his time with them is short. 

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Still, he didn't get sentimental when the reality of the situation was broached Thursday. 

"Different people leave for different reasons," Brady said. "Over the years I've seen it all. Nineteen years. You just do the best that you can do. When you sign up to be a part of the team, you give everything you can to help the team win. I think that's what I've enjoyed most about this organization."

That's not to say this year's team hasn't left its mark on Brady. He reiterated something that Gronkowski went out of his way to bring up after beating the Jets last weekend: The players on this team really like each other, and there's trust they'll lift up one another when need be.

"This team cares a lot about each other," Brady said. "We play for each other. We've shown we can compete. We've shown we can overcome some adversity. We've been counted out a few times and shown back up with a lot of resolve. We have great character on this team. Our story's still being written. Fortunately we have an opportunity to write it. 

"It's just naturally a level of intensity you can't really emulate at any other point in the season and really, for us, any other point in our life. We all work hard to get to this point. To have an opportunity like we have, I don't think you take it for granted."

Particularly with this group. Even if Brady isn't willing to say it.

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