A case can be made that Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback in NFL history, with his four Super Bowl titles and so-often-flawless passing accuracy. He and Coach Bill Belichick have been the on-field mainstays of the Patriots’ dynasty.

So it stands to reason, doesn’t it, that his announcement Friday that he is dropping his legal challenge to his Deflategate suspension and will miss the first four games of the 2016 season will be a calamitous development for the Patriots?

Perhaps not.

There are plenty of variables in this, and there is no way of knowing for certain how it will play out. But it is possible to construct a scenario by which Brady’s forced absence from the New England lineup actually benefits the Patriots, both in the short term and long term.

Brady turns 39 next month. He played behind an offensive line that struggled mightily to safeguard him last year, and the hits he absorbed seemed to take a toll as the season progressed. Injuries to the playmakers around Brady on the New England offense left him with a shortage of help, and by season’s end the Patriots no longer resembled the dominant team they’d appeared to be earlier.

The Patriots likely will be better along the offensive line this season, if only because it would be difficult for them to be much worse. The return of longtime offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia from his temporary retirement also should help immensely. Even so, the difference in Brady might be telling, come playoff time, from absorbing 12 games worth of hits during the regular season rather than 16.

Third-year backup Jimmy Garoppolo will likely be the starter with Brady sidelined, and Brady’s decision gives the Patriots the certainty of knowing entering training camp that they must get Garoppolo ready to play the first four games. Garoppolo has thrown only 31 regular-season passes in the NFL, but plenty of talent evaluators around the league are convinced that he’ll do just fine as the starter.

The Patriots’ opener at Arizona was going to be difficult to win even with Brady playing. But their following three games are at home against the Miami Dolphins, Houston Texans and Buffalo Bills. It is not the most treacherous of early-season schedules. If the Garoppolo-led Patriots can manage merely to break even, with a record of 2-2 before Brady returns, little to nothing will be lost from Brady’s suspension. It’s not like another team is going to run away with the AFC East race.

In the bigger picture, the Patriots will have some idea about what sort of quarterback they have in Garoppolo as Brady’s career winds down. Brady cannot play forever, despite his apparent belief to the contrary. Do the Patriots have his successor-in-waiting already in place, or do they need to find someone else? The answer to that question will begin to come into sharper focus.

The Patriots clearly would not have chosen to be without Brady for the first quarter of the season. None of this is to suggest that this was the ideal outcome for them.

But maybe, just maybe, it’s not quite as bad for them as it seems.