By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — Tom Brady may ultimately find it difficult to play through age 45, which he’s stated as his goal innumerable times in recent years. But he’s going to have to at least make it through age 42. And probably 43.

That’s what the picture looks like after Bill Belichick and the Patriots decided to only take a quarterback in the seventh round of the 2018 NFL Draft this week. Lamar Jackson was available in the first round, but the Patriots said no thanks. Mason Rudolph went off the board in the third round. Richmond’s Kyle Lauletta was there for the start of business on Saturday; the Patriots traded down. Mike White from Western Kentucky went off the board late in the fifth.

And at that point it was pretty clear that the Patriots did not identify the successor to Brady being available to them in this year’s crop of available quarterbacks. (It’s possible that the four QBs who went in the top 10 might have fit the bill, but the Patriots also either didn’t have a chance or a desire to trade to such a high spot to draft a quarterback.) It became even clearer when they traded out of the 198th spot for two seventh-rounders; Washington State’s Luke Falk was selected at No. 199 by the Titans.

Eventually, the Patriots selected Danny Etling out of LSU with the first pick in the seventh round (219th overall). With all due respect to Etling, many analysts didn’t even have him pegged as getting drafted. His NFL.com profile predicts that he “will face long odds in making a roster.” Maybe he’ll pull a Brady and prove the whole world wrong … or maybe he’ll follow the career course of just about every quarterback drafted in the seventh round before him.

And so it will be: Coming off an MVP season, coming off a Super Bowl in which he threw for a record 505 yards, Tom Brady will not only be the Patriots’ No. 1 quarterback in 2018 but also won’t have to worry about the next franchise quarterback lurking over his shoulder. Brian Hoyer is the only other quarterback on the roster.

It remains possible, of course, that the Patriots add to the roster between now and training camp. Perhaps there’s an undrafted quarterback they might like, or maybe they’ll shock the world and sign Johnny Manziel. But it’s fair to surmise that the next great Patriots quarterback is not currently sitting at home, unemployed. And it’s probably not going to be Etling.

Obviously, it’s been an offseason of some turmoil in New England, with various reports of unrest existing between Bill Belichick and Brady, who will turn 41 years old this summer. But the way things have been shaping up over the past several weeks, it would appear as though the 2018 season will be led by Belichick and Brady, the two most important figures in franchise history. Same as it ever was.

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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