It’s been a month since the New England Patriots won the Super Bowl, and preparations for next season are already underway. It’s the brilliance of the NFL offseason: soon after the final whistle blows on one season, the pressure is on to slap on franchise tags, pickup team options, and negotiate with RFAs. While MLBNetwork spends four months covering the not-so-hot stove, the NFL has mastered the art of the offseason, making professional football of constant interest to fans.
It’s the reason that eyes remain on the defending champs just months after achieving their goal. The pressure is on, and the Pats must address their team needs sooner rather than later. Below is a look at two of the Patriots’ offseason needs that the team can address in-house and the best way to fill them.
Lock up the secondary:
For the first time in quite a long time, the Patriots had a secondary capable of sustaining a man-to-man defensive scheme against almost every opponent. It was a luxury that fans took for granted in the Pats’ Super Bowl run, and something that they can’t afford to lose next year.
With the franchise tag deadline approaching at 4pm today, the Patriots will need to decide whether to tag their kicker Stephen Gostkowski or safety Devin McCourty. While it looks like the team will chose to go with Gostkowski, their pro-bowl kicker, McCourty is a big part of the Pats’ defense and has really come into his own with the likes of Brandon Browner and Darrelle Revis on his side. Though the team may let McCourty hit the open market, McCourty has made it clear that the Pats have the advantage over other teams in negotiations. I would be shocked if McCourty signed elsewhere. He is the best option for FS that the Pats have available and they have an advantage in signing him long term.
In addition to McCourty, the Pats must find a way keep Revis on the roster. With a team option as a safety net, the Patriots technically have Revis under contract if they chose to go that route. However, with the salary cap set for $143.38 million, and the Pats projected to be $7.9 million over that cap, the price of Revis’ option may be too steep.
Bill Belichick knows what a difference it makes to have a top corner as a part of your defense, and for that reason, I think Revis is even more of a priority than McCourty and will be back in Foxborough come Fall.
Running back carousel:
In 2014, fans saw Blount, Ridley, Vereen, White, Gray, and Bolden all take snaps in the backfield. In addition to those six players, James Develin put in most of the work at FB. You can bet that the Patriots don’t want to go into the season with so much uncertainty, but versatility is what helped bring home the Lombardi Trophy a month ago.
Vereen and Ridley are both free agents and both will be looking for their payday. However, Vereen’s value maybe more for the Pats than for any other team. He fits into Belichick’s scheme so well with his ability to catch out of the backfield, so the team will make a move to keep Vereen around. That being said, they will not overpay him to keep him. Bill will do what he always does with FAs; apply a value to that player and if the biding war goes above that amount, he’ll walk away.
Ridley is coming off yet another season of injuries, so his value is lower than it was at this time last year. Perhaps the Pats could get the talented RB for a discounted rate due to the injuries, but again, if the price gets too high, they’ll walk away. They already have Blount for another year, a player who became their number one RB in the playoffs. They will also have White coming back next season on his rookie contract. White, who didn’t play much due to the surplus of backs, has a lot of promise and could have a Ridley-like skill set.
Ideally, the Pats should bring back Ridley and pair him with a power runner like Blount. If Vereen comes back for the right money, that is the best three RB combo one could ask for. If he decides to leave for more money, White could fill in. It would be hard to see Vereen walk, as he played a huge role in the Super Bowl run. He has become a staple of the offense, and for that reason, Bill may value him higher than Stevan Ridley. Either way, I believe one of those two guys comes back and helps solidifies the RB core.