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Time’s up: Could this finally be it for Tom Brady and the Patriots?

Tom Brady

(Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)

Common sense tells us every snap Tom Brady takes brings him one step closer to retirement. He might be the GOAT, but he isn’t God. Time marches on.

It has to happen eventually, doesn’t it? At some juncture, advancing age will impact his scientifically sustained body to the point getting out of bed after another NFL beating will become increasingly harder.

Or he might just become bored with playing the Jets, Dolphins and Bills twice a year in the less-than-competitive AFC East.

Still, the retirement question gets asked every year and never gets adequately answered because Brady really has no idea how much longer he’ll play or, more importantly, how much longer Bill Belichick will consider him productive enough to play.

But earlier this week, in a moment of extraordinary clarity on a weekly radio show, Brady admitted he’s been thinking more about the end than any of us would ever imagined.

“I think that’s the great part for me – I don’t know. I think that’s been a unique situation that I’ve been in,” Brady said in his weekly appearance on sports radio WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show.”

“I think when you commit to a team for a certain amount of years, you kind of feel like your responsibility is to always fulfill the contract. For me, it’s been good because I’m just taking it day by day and I’m enjoying what I have. I don’t know what the future holds, and the great part is, for me, football at this point is all borrowed time.”

Conversation about the impending end of his time with the Patriots has become an increasingly popular pastime this season because Brady is in the final year of his contract.

Brady, 42, and his friends have also been dropping subtle hints the quarterback may be thinking this is finally it. He and his wife, Gisele Bundchen, have listed there Massachusetts home. The same is true for his personal trainer, Alex Guerrero.

Meanwhile, he recently opened his new TB12 Sports Therapy Center in Boston, perhaps a sign he’s considering transitioning into a new and gentler lifestyle.

“I never expected to play 20 years. I’m playing on a great team. It’s just been an incredible 20 years of my life – to play for Mr. Kraft, and Jonathan, and the Kraft family, and for Coach Belichick, and to have so much success is a dream come true,” said Brady.

The topic was pushed front and center again after it was widely discussed on ESPN’s coverage of last Monday Night’s game between the Patriots and Jets.

“If he’s selling his home and his trainer is selling his home and he’s voiding his contract, what does that tell you?” said ESPN’s Adam Schefter

On Tuesday morning on another ESPN program, Schefter went a step further.

“He’s either staying in New England, he’s retiring or he’s going to play somewhere else. … Staying in New England to me, would seem like the least likely option of the three,” he added.

New England Patriots

(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

There is reason to believe Brady could be done after this season, whether the Patriots win another Super Bowl or not. There were uncomfortable contract negotiations during the summer that resulted in two voidable years added at the end of the three-year extension he signed.

So he’s essentially working on a one-year deal unless he and the Patriots have some other private understanding. If not, Brady could become a free agent after this season.

Hey, don’t discount the possibility. Remember, Joe Montana ended his career with the Chiefs, Joe Namath with the Rams, Johnny Unitas with the Chargers. Brett Favre played for the Jets and Vikings.

Maybe Brady and the Bears might happen in 2020. He has said in the past that he wants to play until he’s 45. So at current market rates, that leaves about $90 million on the table for him to make over the next three seasons.

And Brady is still performing at an optimal rate for the 7-0 Patriots.  His completion percentage (65.9)  is above his career average of 64.1. He’s on pace to throw almost 37 touchdowns and for over 4,500 yards.

“One day I’ll wake up and feel like that will be enough. When that day comes, that day comes. I don’t know if it will be after this year. I don’t know if it will be five years from now,” said Brady. “But I don’t have to determine those things right now either. That’s kind of a good part where I’m at. So I think just taking advantage of the opportunity that I have this year and do the very best I can do. Those decisions come at the more appropriate times.”