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The Patriots have only one real option when it comes to Tom Brady

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Related: The Scho Show Episode #64: Tom Brady Watch 2020 is on

Wild Card Round - Tennessee Titans v New England Patriots Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Tom Brady is playing football next season, he made that very clear in a recent social media post. The next question is: will the New England Patriots re-sign the soon-to-be free agent? This is going to be the most popular question this winter and early spring, but the Patriots don’t really have much of a choice. They have to bring him back. Not just because of his past, but also because of their future.

Let’s first look at the condition of the team right now. Are they in a spot to compete with the current backup, Jarrett Stidham? Even though Stidham has impressed in practice, he’s not yet game-ready, so going into next season with him as the starter isn’t a great plan.

Is there a free agent quarterback who can come in and keep the Patriots competitive? No one outside of Bart Scott believes there is any QB of note on the free agent market. Ryan Tannehill was good this season for Tennessee, but does anyone think he could be the long-term answer in New England? The Patriots could bring in someone like Blake Bortles to be a backup or third stringer like Cody Kessler was this season, but none of the guys out there make sense as next year’s starter.

Now, you might be thinking that no one is available now, but they could suck next year in an effort to draft Trevor Lawrence or another, possibly elite quarterback. The reality is, however, that this team is simply too talented to be bad enough next season to have a shot at an elite QB in round one. Maybe if they didn’t re-sign any of their free agents, Julian Edelman retired, and they traded Stephon Gilmore, they’d have a shot at doing that, but it still might not work. That’s also some extreme measures for something that is only a possibility. Plus, what have you seen from Bill Belichick in the last 20 years that would make you think he would ever do that?

With both competing without Brady and tanking off the table next season, the only course of action the Patriots have left is to bring the 42-year-old back.

You have to assume they are going to address the offensive skill positions in the offseason, and also try to get faster on defense. If they can pull both of those things off, they will be right back where they have been the last two decades, fighting for a championship. Brady might not be the best quarterback in the league anymore and might have fallen off a bit this year, but he is still just inside the top 10 and there still isn’t anyone better in crunch time. He brought the Patriots downfield against the Dolphins to take a late lead, and probably would have done so against the Titans, if it hadn’t been for the Edelman drop.

So, the only decision that makes any sense for the Patriots next season is bringing Tom Brady back. If that means overpaying him, then so be it. Brady counts for $13.5M in dead cap next season if New England does not re-sign him, so the team can afford to spend a little more knowing that’s the starting point.

As a Patriots fan, I’m not prepared to see Brady in anything but a Patriots uniform, and I don’t know if I ever will be. Luckily, for now, bringing him back is the option that makes the most sense for the continued success of the organization. For 20 years, Bill Belichick has done what’s best for the team, without any hard feelings or hesitation. Let’s hope he continues that trend this offseason.

Pat is a host of The Patriot Nation Podcast

Interact with him on Twitter @plane_pats