Well, the last few days have been sobering (literally and figuratively…). The bad news is the offseason is two weeks longer than it was last year and “one for the thumb” is on a slight delay. The good news is that every single one of the core game changers on both sides of the ball is under contract for 2016-2017. That being said, there are a number of contributors whose contracts have expired. Here are some of the more notable names and my thoughts on whether or not I think Belichick and the rest of the front office will bring them back for another go:
Akiem Hicks: Boy, was Akiem a steal. Michael Hoomanawawhothehellcares for this guy?! Hicks was another phenomenal midseason acquisition for Belichick the GM (see: Ayers, Akeem) and played a big role down the stretch as an interior pass rusher, especially in the absence of Dom Easley. Unfortunately for New England, he’s effective, 6’5 324 pounds, and 26 years old. I see him getting paid, and I don’t see the Patriots matching. Gone.
Steven Jackson: SJax was supposed to be a 6-week rental that turned into a 4-week rental. I don’t think he’ll suit up for any team next season, but if he does, it won’t be the Patriots. Gone.
LeGarrette Blount: A fan-favorite and productive RB for the last three years, Blount ended this season on the IR, and will be 30 midway through next season. The Pats need to rebuild their rushing attack and it starts with the power back position. Whether through free agency or the draft, Belichick and Co. will court a more dynamic option. Gone.
Nate Ebner: Ebner is tough as nails, should be affordable, and has been a major contributor on special teams. Those reasons alone are enough for another shot to make the team out of camp. Back.
Tavon Wilson: A few bright spots and special teams offerings aside, Wilson hasn’t lived up to his 2nd Round selection status. With another 2nd Round pick being used on a safety this season and having jumped Wilson on the depth chart (Jordan Richards), I would think Tavon’s stint with Brady’s Bunch is up. Gone.
Ryan Wendell: A career overachiever and catalyst of the offensive line’s turnaround in 2014, Wendell couldn’t get on the field this season due to a variety of ailments. After using two draft picks on the interior O-line this season (Jackson, Mason) and the emergence of undrafted FA center David Andrews as a spot starter/legit backup, the writing seems to be on the wall for Wendell. A good soldier, but my guess is he’s played his last game as a Pat. Gone.
Tarell Brown: Don’t blame you if you forgot, but the veteran Brown actually started the first 3 games of the season opposite Malcolm Butler. Although a scrappy competitor and still somewhat effective in doses, the emergence of Logan Ryan and even undrafted FA Justin Coleman seem to nudge Brown out of the Pats’ plans for next season. Gone.
James Develin: Looking back now, it is obvious Develin’s injury damaged the offense more than anyone expected. A true bruiser and excellent lead blocking fullback, assuming he can get back to full health, Develin will be a critical part of the aforementioned revamped running game next season. Back.
Sealver Siliga: With Big Vince Wilfork departing for Houston last offseason, Siliga was supposed to step in and play a huge role for the Patriots’ defensive interior line. Instead, he was jumped in the rotation by rookie Malcom Brown and veteran Alan Branch, who were both far more effective. Although I could see Siliga given another shot to earn a spot in camp, my guess is he has fallen too out of favor with the coaching staff. Gone.
We’re on to next season; we’re on to Super Bowl 51.