Not since Drew Bledsoe went down in a 2001 regular-season game against the New York Jets and an unknown backup QB named Tom Brady jogged out onto the field have the New England Patriots not known everything was okay.

Yesterday, the suite for No. 12's family and friends at Gillette Stadium was completely cleared out for the first time since Brady began his historic position there. News also caused anxiety in Patriot Nation when reports surfaced that the Brady family had officially moved yesterday to Greenwich, Connecticut.

The future Hall of Famer is going to be 43 years old during the next NFL season. He is a free agent and appears to have three options. Two of which are re-signing with New England, or sign with the Los Angeles Chargers, who need a quarterback and will unveil their incredible new SoFi Stadium at Hollywood Park.

There is also a distinct possibility that Raiders head coach Jon Gruden would want the iconic Brady to wear the black & silver for two years as that franchise begins its Las Vegas era in the brand-new Allegiant Stadium.

Brady would cost either of the other teams at least $40 million per year to play there. He may insist on $30-$35 million to play in Foxboro, though.

The question for those of us looking in from the outside is will Belichick and Kraft dole that kind of money out for a guy born on August 3, 1977? Even that guy?

If so, I think Brady would also have to get some assurances that they will field a far better offensive line protecting him and bring in some bonafide stud weapons in the wide receiver and tight end positions.

Wide receivers A.J. Green, Emmanuel Sanders and Robby Anderson are all free agents this year. At the tight end position, Austin Hooper and Hunter Henry are also available. The Patriots are also slated to pick No. 23 in the NFL draft this April.

In the movie The Devil's Own, Rory Devaney, played by Brad Pitt, lays bleeding and fading away and reminds New York police officer Tom O'Meara (Harrison Ford), his friend who shot him, "Don't look for a happy ending. It's not an American story. It's an Irish one," before dying.

I'm pretty sure poor ol' Rory had Tom Brady's exact life in mind when he said that.

So do the Patriots load up and try to bring one more championship next year, or do they (gulp) part ways with New England's most iconic winner in modern sports and start again?

Belichick has proved himself to be able to find a good quarterback, with Brady in the sixth round of the 1999 draft and perhaps more lightning in a bottle in Jimmy Garoppolo, who is in the NFC championship game this weekend, hosting the Green Bay Packers in San Francisco.

Belichick found Garoppolo in the 2014 draft during the second round with the 62nd pick. Garoppolo played at Eastern Illinois and shattered all school records once held by Tony Romo. Once Garoppolo's rookie contract entered the final year in 2017, the Patriots knew they had a "use it or lose it" situation.

Some rarely acknowledged tension in the Patriots front office was circulating over which quarterback to keep and which to trade. Rumors were all that escaped the fortress in Foxboro. The presumed correct one was that Belichick wanted to keep Garoppolo and trade Brady but that Robert Kraft overruled that idea.

Keeping Brady turned out to be the better move as they won two more Super Bowls, but from this point on, it seems Jimmy G has the brighter future. So what? New England had Brady. We love Brady. We'd like to clone Brady and live in denial but stuff is about to get real for Patriot fans.

Kraft and Belichick are at a crossroads. Which path will they take? We'll all know soon enough.

Ken Pittman is the host of The Ken Pittman Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Contact him at ken.pittman@townsquaremedia.com. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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