What’s next for the New England Patriots?

BY CHUCK CONSTANTINO, Couchshideshow.com writer

As a fan of the New England Patriots, I was heart broken at the conclusion of Sunday’s nailbiting Superbowl.

Fast forward a day later, and just like every NFL fan who is not a New York Giants fan, my mind is on what lies ahead for my team. New England, led by mastermind head coach Bill Belichick and wonder boy Tom Brady, have many holes on this team, as the G-men showed. This loss is sure to sting and last until week one of next season.

But all is not bad in Foxboro, here are a few things Belichick and company have to look toward.

New England Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich is one of several free agents the Patriots will have to consider resigning. Photo by: Jeffrey Beall / Flickr

• Free Agency: The Patriots are a team which builds through the draft, but after this season, with all the expiring contracts up, Belichick will have to look to free agency for    some upgrades. Wide outs Wes Welker and Deion Branch, running backs Kevin Faulk and BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and pass rushers Shaun Ellis, Rob Ninkovich, Mark Anderson and Andre Carter will all be free agents. Also, they’ll have to replace incumbent centers Dan Koppen and Dan Connolly. Though the Patriots haven’t shelled out good money for a free agent since the signing of defensive linemen/outside linebacker Adailius Thomas, addressing the defensive line, defensive backs and wide receivers needs to be a top priority. The Pats could take a look a wide outs DeSean Jackson, Dwayne Bowe, Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon and Vincent Jackson. I doubt they actually sign any of them, but they need to be talking with their agents.

USC defensive lineman Nick Perry should be on New England's radar when the NFL draft approaches this spring. Photo by: Neon Tommy / Flickr

• The Draft: With six selections in the first three rounds of this upcoming NFL draft in April, New England has the chance to add plenty of play makers in the early rounds. This year’s draft is full of wide receivers and pass rushers. The two first rounders could be used to grab either a pass rusher like USC’s Nick Perry, Illinois’ Whitney Mercilus, ASU’s Vontaze Burfict or grab South Carolina’s wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. Approaching the draft realistically, Belichick will probably trade one if not both first rounders for more selections in the later round and next’s seasons drafts. This can come back to haunt them, as they’ve traded drafts picks which resulted in Clay Matthews and Mark Ingram.


• The Core: As weird as it sounds, the New England Patriots may be best built for the future. With two young tight ends, and two picks last April spent on running backs, Tom Brady has some pieces around him for the couple of seasons. Sure, they’ll need some new offensive linemen, and a couple of wide receivers, but Brady will continue to be in sync with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. On defense, Vince Wilfork will continue to plug the middle of that 3-4 defense, behind him linebackers Brandon Spikes and Jerod Mayo will roam around, and Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty will play somewhere in the defensive backfield. After a full off season for BB to make the changes he needs, and get his defense to start playing.

• A 100% Healthy Gronk: I hate to be that guy, but a healthy Rob Gronkowski changes the whole game plan and offensive look for the Patriots in the Super bowl. He is pretty much unguardable, with his combination of size, athleticism an hands, defenses all next season will pray he is still hurt. The Arizona graduate complements Hernandez and Welker so well. In just his second full season, Brady and Gronk together dusted off the record books and etched Gronk’s name in history as one of the best tight ends in the game. With a full season of Josh McDaniels playcalling, Gronkowski may somehow top this season’s statistics.

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