New England Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, MA – DECEMBER 29: Tom Brady #12 shakes the hand of owner Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots before a game against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

98.5 The Sports Hub staff report

Make no mistake about it: Patriots owner Robert Kraft wants Tom Brady back next season, and he told Peter King as much.

But talking with King, Kraft also seems to understands that loyalty and respect is a two-way street, and that the 42-year-old who has taken pay cut after pay cut to help the Patriots field the best roster possible over the years, has earned the right to take care of himself as a true free agent should he choose come Mar. 18.

“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,” Kraft told King. “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.”

What that futures hold for Brady, of course, remains to be seen.

Speaking with reporters after Saturday’s wild card loss to the Titans, Brady didn’t seem like a man who wanted to tip his hand, offering vague “we’ll see” kind of answers to questions about his future. He considered it unlikely that he retires (he also said that he ‘hopefully’ doesn’t retire, whatever that means), and praised the Patriots organization.

“I love the Patriots,” Brady, whose 253.6 yards per game were his lowest since 2010, said. “I mean, they obviously – this is the greatest organization, and playing for Mr. Kraft all these years and for Coach Belichick – there’s nobody that’s had a better career, I would say, than me, just being with them. So, I’m very blessed and I don’t know what the future looks like and I’m not going to predict it. So, I wish we would have won [Saturday] and wish we would have done a lot of things better over the course of the season, but we just didn’t get the job done.”

But when it comes to predicting the future, Kraft certainly has his own rooting interests at play.

“My hope and prayer is number one, he play for the Patriots. Or number two, he retires,” Kraft admitted. “He has the freedom to decide what he wants to do and what’s in his own best personal interest.”