Patriots Offseason, Free Agency, And Draft

You’ve already read it all.  You’ve already listened to it all.  You’ve already seen it all.  There’s no reason to go over Tom Brady’s abysmal performance in a place that seemingly has become scarier than any haunted house at any Six Flags in America.  And there’s definitely no reason to go over the Patriots offensive lining crumbling under the deafening crowd noise at Sports Authority Field.

Instead let’s take a look forward to next season.

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Salary Cap

With teams being notified that the salary cap will increase to over $150 million next season, the Patriots, after crunching all the numbers that honestly numb my mind, will be working with $4.33 million in cap space right off the bat.

Patriots should part ways with wide receiver Brandon LaFell (roughly $2 million in cap space) who no longer proves to be a viable deep threat or “outside the numbers” receiver for the team.  Tight end Scott Chandler let everyone down this season when he came no where close to being the Gronk Jr. everyone expected.  The Patriots should part ways with him as well.

The real question is what do the Patriots do with linebacker Jerod Mayo.  Cutting the 29-year old veteran seems like the smart move at this point.  He can’t stay healthy and he frees up $7 million in cap space.  Mayo will surely find a job elsewhere and he will always be remembered as a great Patriot (unless he goes to the Colts, obviously).

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Patriots Free Agents

The most notable unrestricted free agent for the Patriots is running back LeGarrette Blount.  The exponential decline for Blount this season was concerning to say the least.  He went from a good complement to the shifty Dion Lewis to looking downright slow to being shelved for the season after injuring his hip in the Houston game.

But if we’re being honest, I don’t think Blount is going anywhere.  He’s going to take a pay cut and back up Dion Lewis and split time with another power back next season.  Two years ago he tried playing in Pittsburgh and it just did not work out.

The Patriots also should look to re-sign defensive end Akiem Nicks whom they received from the Saints via trade this past season.

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Free Agent Targets

First and foremost the Patriots need to replace LaFell (no, Terrell Owens you will not be considered).  Obviously, we don’t know who is going to resign where just yet, but there are a few possibilities I like at wide receiver.  Going into next season the New York Giants might be looking at a log jam at receiver with Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz, so that would free up a guy like Rueben Randle.  The Bengals might be in a similar situation and will have to choose between resigning Marvin Jones or Mohamed Sanu.  I would love someone like Sanu on the Patriots because of his threat on the end-around run.  He’s also a Rutgers guy and we all know Belichick loves his Scarlet Knights.  Alshon Jeffery is also not out of the question.

Eric Wilbur of Boston.com even brought up the potential of bringing Calvin Johnson over from Detroit.

Aside from receiver, I also expect the Patriots to look for a third corner back and potentially a backup tackle to replace the downright awful Marcus Cannon and the equally downright awful Cam Fleming.

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Draft

The Patriots have picks in rounds 2, 3, 4,6 and two picks in the seventh round (one being the return for Ryan Mallett).  I haven’t looked too much into the draft picks just yet, but expect the 2nd round and 3rd round picks to be players that will make an impact this year or the following year.

Belichick has had luck in the past drafting defensive backs with the likes of Devin McCourty, Logan Ryan, and Daron Harmon, so I anticipate him going back to that well and taking a defensive back or two.  Side note: I like to pretend the Ras-I Dowling pick never happened.  On the flip side, the Patriots have never been able to draft and develop a decent wide receiver as evidenced by Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins.

But who am I kidding, we all know Belichick is going to find a defensive lineman he likes and just take him (not a bad idea considering Chandler Jones’ uncertain future).

2016 Opponents

Lastly, a quick look at the Patriots opponents for next season when they take on the NFC West and AFC North:

Home: Jets, Dolphins, Bills, Ravens, Bengals, Rams, Seahawks, and Houston

Away: Jets, Dolphins, Bills, Browns, Steelers, Cardinals, 49ers, and Broncos

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