It’s not often that we see a quarterback controversy surrounding the defending Super Bowl champions and it is even less common for it to happen to a team with a surefire Hall of Famer, but it looks like that’s exactly what is starting to happen in New England.

Ever since Mo Lewis nearly killed Drew Bledsoe in 2001, Brady has had the keys to the Patriots offense and things have worked out pretty well for Brady and New England. The Patriots have won five Super Bowls in seven appearances and Brady has made four All-Pro squads, won two MVP awards and made the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team. But Brady is turning 40 in August and no matter how badly he insists that he plans to play at least five more seasons, Father Time eventually catches up to everyone.

As Tom E. Curry of CSN New England pointed out today, New England has a huge decision to make in the upcoming months – do they stick with the man who has made New England such a force to be reckoned with over the past 16 years or do they move forward with Jimmy Garoppolo, the backup who is entering the final year of his contract that the Patriots refused to trade during the draft?

Getting a franchise quarterback is a tall task, just ask the Jets or the Bears, and New England seems convinced that Garoppolo is the heir to Brady’s throne. If they didn’t feel that way, Garoppolo would be in Cleveland right now and Jacoby Brissett would be the second stinger behind Brady. But unless New England decides to use the franchise tag on Garoppolo next year, which will be shocking considering both the cost of a franchise tag for the league’s highest-paid position as well as the fact that Garoppolo isn’t even a starter, they are going to lose him next offseason to a team with deeper pockets and the ability to promise him that he will be a starter and New England will only receive a compensatory pick in return. Barring New England doing an about face and trading Garoppolo this summer, they have gone all in on him to be their guy and Garoppolo has no incentive to sign a long-term deal as long as Tom Brady is in the way.

Brady would have no shortage of suitors if he was available, including his hometown San Francisco 49ers and even at his old age, the Patriots could command a king’s ransom from him considering that he finished second in the MVP race last season and won his fourth Super Bowl MVP.

Of course, New England could also just release Brady, but I can’t see that happening. Brady has enormous trade value, though cutting him after June 1 wouldn’t cost them anything. Kicking a future Hall of Fame quarterback isn’t unprecedented, but it’s unfathomable to see it happen so late into the offseason.

As Curry mentioned in his story, if Brady is moved, it has the potential to be the biggest story in NFL history. Joe Montana was traded to Kansas City, but he also missed nearly two years of football and Steve Young won an MVP in his absence. Peyton Manning missed all of 2011 with a major neck injury and the Colts had the first overall pick in the draft, giving them the ability to take Andrew Luck. Neither were in the position that Brady is in.

The Patriots have also notoriously been one of the most cutthroat teams in football and seem to have a propensity for releasing a player before his decline. Maybe Brady was not the untouchable player he was once considered.