Well, they did it. It took 14 points in the fourth quarter and a phenomenal Malcolm Butler interception for the Patriots to have the opportunity to bring another Lombardi Trophy to Foxboro. After a week of celebration, its time to now look ahead at the offseason. The Patriots have a lot of question marks that could dramatically shift the type of team that we see hit the field in September.
Does he even need an introduction? One of the best cornerbacks in the NFL is technically not a free agent, but it is almost a forgone conclusion that the Patriots will try and extend the 29 year old superstar. If the Patriots cannot hammer out a deal, they could pick up the $20 million option, but Jonathan Kraft has already made his feelings known about that: " People understand that that's a placeholder and we'll get to work on trying to make [an extension] happen."
Keeping Revis has to be the top priority for the Patriots heading into the offseason. Revis's ability to shutdown the opposing team's top receiver completely changes the way that this team played defense. Revis has been known as a mercenary in his NFL career, often going to the team that will pay him the most money. However, many people feel that winning a championship and see "The Patriots Way" for himself has somewhat changed him. With Brady restructuring his deal, the opportunity to pay Revis what he deserves is there. Its not going to be cheap, however. Expect Revis to get a 4 or 5 year extension with over $50 million guaranteed. Its hard for me to believe that the Pats will even wait until March 10 to give teams like the Bills and Jets the opportunity to talk to Revis.
Prediction: Revis signs a 5 years, $75 million deal with $50 million guaranteed with the Pats
"This ride has been incredible -- being in the Super Bowl twice and winning it once -- there's not much a player can ask for except for being at home and this is home." said McCourty to Tom E. Curran the night of Super Bowl XLIX.
Unlike Revis, McCourty does not know anything different than the Patriots' red and blue. The 27 year old was drafted by the Patriots in the 1st Round in 2010 and has flourished since being moved to the safety position. He was a team captain and the quarterback of the defense for the entire 2014 season. Its very hard to imagine him in anything but a Patriots uniform. For that reason, I do not see him going anywhere. When looking at a comparable deal for McCourty, the first place to look would be at the top of the Safety market. While McCourty is a notch below Earl Thomas, he is right there with Jarius Byrd. Byrd signed a 6 year, $54 million deal with $26 million guaranteed. Expect something similar for McCourty The Patriots could also franchise tag McCourty if they are not able to agree on a deal.
Prediction: McCourty re-signs with the Pats at 6 years, $58 million with $29 million in guaranteed money
Second Tier Guys: Gostkowski, Connolly, Vereen, Ridley
Its hard for me to even call some of these guys expendable, but I think that may be the exact thoughts going through Bill Belichik's mind. Gostkowski had the second highest made field goal percentage in 2014. In 2010, Gostkowski signed a 4 year, $14 million contract, which made him the 3rd highest cap hit as a kicker in the NFL. Although he is only 30 and has many great seasons left in him, the Patriots could get a kicker in the draft for far less money. Dan Connolly silently kept the Patriots offensive line in order during the entire season. While Connolly is 32 years old, it is important that they re-sign him to keep that line protecting Tom Brady. However, if they choose to let Connolly walk, they will be able to find a good offensive lineman in the first 5 Rounds.
The Patriots are very solid at the running back position for years to come. With that said, Vereen and Ridley would have to come back at a discounted rate. Vereen had a great regular season and an even better postseason. Because of that, he will probably cash out with a team that is not the New England Patriots. Ridley's situation is much more complicated. Before his season ending injuries, Ridley was putting together a strong campaign. If the Patriots can get him for a cheap, prove yourself deal, both sides could come out this happy.
Gostkowski re-signs to a deal close to his 4 year, $14 million 2010 contract
Connolly re-signs a 2 year, $7 million deal
Vereen signs elsewhere
Ridley re-signs for a league minimum, heavy on incentives
Other Potential Moves and Restructures
The Patriots don't necessarily need to do anything except bring back their own personnel. Its hard to even make a case that there are areas that they need to improve in because they won the Super Bowl. If the Patriots bring back Revis and McCourty, there is a case to be made that they should be favorites to win the Super Bowl again. However, there are areas of this team that could be improved.
Even though the Patriots had Gronk, they were able to win the Super Bowl without a Top 15 wide receiver. That being said, they may have the opportunity to sign one in the coming weeks. Larry Fitzgerald, as it currently stands, will be a $23 million cap hit to the Cardinals this season. With the emergence of John Brown and Michael Floyd, it seems more likely that the Cardinals will cut Fitzgerald. Before he is even released, according to multiple reports the Patriots and Colts look to be the early favorites to land the future hall of famer. For the past 2 years there has been interest from both sides to make Fitzgerald a Patriot and they may just get that opportunity this offseason.
While the Patriots could benefit from bolstering their offensive and defensive line, they also need some of their current guys to restructure their contracts. Players such as Danny Amendola, Nate Solder and Jerod Mayo need to restructure their deal or there is the possibility that they will not be on this team at the start of the 2015 season.
by Pete Packowski @Pete_BBS