By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — Tom Brady is going to play professional football in 2018. You’ve likely heard as much by now. He claims that he plans to play professional football in 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022. But that’s a long way away. Plenty can happen between then and now to perhaps shift those expectations.

But for now, here in early July, we know that Brady will be reporting for duty at Patriots training camp in just a few short weeks. Coming off an MVP season and a 505-yard passing performance in the Super Bowl, he’ll probably be pretty darned good.

And while some folks may reasonably wonder why a soon-to-be-41-year-old man who’s accomplished all there is to accomplish in the NFL would decide to put his body through another rigorous football season, it is worth examining what kind of strides Brady can make in terms of the all-time statistical leaderboards.

As you may or may not remember, Brady was not exactly a statistical monster until 2007. In his first six seasons as a starter, he led the NFL in a passing category just twice: in touchdowns in 2002 with 28, and in yards in 2005 with 4,110. (Interestingly, 28 TDs marked the lowest total for a single-season leader in a 16-game season since 1992.) In the 10 seasons since then, he’s twice led the league in passing yards (2007, 2017), he’s led league in touchdown passes three times (2007, 2010, 2015), he’s led the league in passer rating twice (2007, 2010), and he’s led the league in interception percentage four times (2010, 2012, 2015-16).

Through it all, Brady’s always racked up the most important stat: wins. In that category, he stands alone as the winningest starting quarterback in NFL history with 223 career victories, regular and postseason combined. That’s 23 more than Peyton Manning (in four fewer games played), 24 more than Brett Favre (in 34 fewer games), and 74 more than Drew Brees, who’s second among active QBs with 149 wins. (Ben Roethlisberger has 148.) Save for maybe the 29-year-old Russell Wilson (73 wins), no active QB has a chance to ever get into Brady’s territory — even if Brady doesn’t win another game. But he’ll probably win at least 10 more in 2018.

Brady also has, of course, won five Super Bowls, more than anybody else. And with just one more playoff victory, he’ll officially have twice as many playoff wins than anyone else. Brady currently has 27 playoff victories, while there’s a three-way tie for second place between Joe Montana, John Elway and Terry Bradshaw. They each have 14.

Yet the value of “QB wins” remains a point of contention, as there are many elements outside of the QB’s control that contribute to wins. Even though there are a number of elements outside of the QB’s control with all stats (how well or poorly an offensive line blocks, whether a receiver runs the correct route, whether a receiver drops a pass, whether wind results in an inaccurate throw, whether a pass is tipped at the line, etc., etc., etc.), the individual stats do take precedence to many analysts and fans.

On that note, here’s a look at where Brady currently stands on some all-time passing lists, which should provide an idea of what kind of movement he can make this upcoming season.

(A * indicates an active player.)

Passing Yards
1. Peyton Manning, 71,940
2. Brett Favre, 71,838
3. Drew Brees*, 70,445
4. Tom Brady*, 66,159
5. Dan Marino, 61,361
6. Eli Manning*, 51,682
7. John Elway, 51,475
8. Ben Roethlisberger*, 51,065
9. Philip Rivers*, 50,348
10. Warren Moon, 49,325

Passing TDs
1. Peyton Manning, 539
2. Brett Favre, 508
T-3. Tom Brady*, 488
T-3. Drew Brees*, 488
5. Dan Marino, 420
T-6. Philip Rivers*, 342
T-6. Fran Tarkenton, 342
8. Eli Manning*, 339
9. Ben Roethlisberger*, 329
10. Aaron Rodgers*, 313

1. Brett Favre, 6,300
2. Drew Brees*, 6,222
3. Peyton Manning, 6,125
4. Tom Brady, 5,629
5. Dan Marino, 4,967
6. Eli Manning*, 4,424
7. Philip Rivers*, 4,171
8. Ben Roethlisberger*, 4,164
9. John Elway, 4,123
10. Warren Moon, 3,988

Passer Rating
1. Aaron Rodgers*, 103.8
2. Russell Wilson*, 98.8
3. Tom Brady, 97.6
4. Tony Romo, 97.1
5. Steve Young, 96.8
6. Drew Brees*, 96.7
7. Peyton Manning, 96.5
8. Philip Rivers*, 94.8
9. Ben Roethlisberger*, 94.0
10. Kirk Cousins*, 93.7

The completions stat doesn’t really matter, nor does the passer rating — though it’s noteworthy that Brady sits so high on that list despite his many more career pass attempts. No, it’s really about the yards and the touchdowns, and Brady’s clearly in a distinct group of four in both categories, along with Manning, Favre, and Brees.

To the uninitiated, seeing Brady leading zero of the top passing categories may make one wonder why he’s considered the “GOAT.” To that, you’d probably want to take a peek at the all-time leaders in interceptions thrown.

Pass Intercepted
1. Brett Favre, 336
2. George Blanda, 277
3. John Hadl, 268
4. Vinny Testaverde, 267
5. Fran Tarkenton, 266
6. Norm Snead, 257
7. Johnny Unitas, 253
8. Dan Marino, 252
9. Peyton Manning, 251
10. Y.A. Tittle, 248

14. Warren Moon, 233
T-15. Drew Brees*, 228
T-15. Eli Manning*, 228
17. John Elway, 226

43. Ben Roethlisberger*, 174

47. Philip Rivers*, 166

T-53. Tom Brady, 160

More clearly, in that group of four QBs who stand above everyone else in passing yards and TDs, here’s where they rank in interceptions:

1. Brett Favre, 336
9. Peyton Manning, 251
T-15. Drew Brees*, 228
T-53. Tom Brady, 160

To further drive that list home: Tom Brady has thrown the fourth-most passes in NFL history, yet he’s thrown the 53rd-most interceptions. Here’s more:

Intereption Percentage (min. 3500 attempts)
1. Aaron Rodgers*, 1.6%
2. Tom Brady, 1.8%
3. Alex Smith, 2.1%
4. Donovan McNabb, 2.2%
T-5. Matt Ryan*, 2.3%
T-5. Jeff Garcia, 2.3%
T-5. Mark Brunell, 2.3%

Generally, this is a number that increases as a player ages. Brady has been the exception to this rule. Perhaps Rodgers will, too, but it’s more likely that Brady will end up at No. 1 at this list within five years.

The interception numbers are just remarkable, and it’s the lack of interceptions where Brady’s really separated himself from every other all-time great quarterback.

(Side note: If you’re wondering Joe Montana has been in all of these lists, he ranks 18th in passing yards and 16th in passing TDs. Different eras, of course. But still, Marino ranks fifth all time in both of those categories.)

Regardless, Brady should be able to leapfrog Brett Favre for second place in all-time passing touchdowns, needing just 21 to do so. However, another solid season from Drew Brees could keep Brady in third. Brady would need another MVP-type season to pass Favre on the passing yards list, but again, even then, a solid season from Brees could keep Brady from making too much headway.

But, if you take a step back, you can see that two more above-average seasons for Brady could get him past Manning in both passing yards and passing touchdowns. Brady needs 5,782 yards and 52 touchdowns to pass Manning in the respective categories. Considering he sent that email a few years back acknowledging the rivalry with Manning, perhaps reaching those accolades really is a goal for Brady — regardless of what Brees does at ages 39 and 40.

In any event, Brady won’t be hitting the field on Sundays looking to specifically target these numbers. But he knows that if he continues to perform at his high level, the numbers and the stats will add up, and he just may end up passing Manning in the few areas where the retired QB currently has an edge.

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

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