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Where Do the Patriots Go From Here?

Tom Brady

The Patriots took quite the beating at the hands of the Ravens on Sunday to lose their first home playoff game in the Belichick-Brady era. It wasn’t pretty, but it did tell us one thing—Wes Welker would not have made a difference. The Patriots were outplayed by so much that their top offensive weapon would not have led them to victory. Think about that for a second and realize what has become of the Patriots’ dynasty.

The only good thing about the Patriots losing to the Ravens was that they finished out of the top eight in the NFL in 2009. Why is this a good thing? Well, if 2010 is an uncapped season, the NFL has certain rules that protect the strong teams from getting stronger. Rather than repeat the actual wording of the rules, I will sum it up in one sentence: The top eight  NFL teams cannot sign an unrestricted free agent without having one of their free agents sign with another team. With the Patriots losing to the Ravens on Sunday, they finished outside of the top eight and can spend their money at will, while big-pocket teams like the Colts, Cowboys, and Jets will have restrictions. Let’s face it; this Patriots team wasn’t going to win the Super Bowl this year so this is the second-best scenario.

Here is the final edition of Five Thoughts, where I will list five things the Patriots need to address in the offseason:

1. Give Offensive Coordinator Bill O’Brien more coaching support.

It’s no secret that the offense struggled this season and there’s no reason it should have. They had two top receivers in Randy Moss and Wes Welker, three very capable running  backs in Sammy Morris, Laurence Maroney, and Kevin Faulk, and that guy named Tom Brady. However, the team averaged just 26.7 points per game and I say just because if you take out the 59-0 beating over the winless Titans then the Pats averaged a mere 24.5 points per game. That would be good enough if the defense was in the top 10, but it’s not. It was clear that O’Brien went through some growing pains and maybe he will get better with time, but why not bring in someone to help the process?

2. Take care of Tom Brady and Vince Wilfork.

Wilfork is a free agent this year and Tom Brady’s contract is up after next year so it would make sense for the Patriots to lock up these two guys long term sooner rather than later. They are definitely the top-five players at their respective positions in the NFL and the Patriots are going nowhere without either of them. It would make sense for the Patriots to take care of these two contracts first because they are the first dominos that need to fall before the team can make any other major additions to the roster.

3. Cut Adalius Thomas.

He has become a cancer in the clubhouse and clearly doesn’t care about his future on the New England Patriots. With the current situation of the collective bargaining agreement in the NFL, it is unclear what type of penalty the Patriots would face for terminating Thomas’ contract, but most reports point to it being close to Richard Seymour’s of $6.1 million this season. Whatever the case may be, the Patriots would be doing themselves a big favor because Thomas clearly showed this year that he is not a team-first player. Whether it was being late for practice (and complaining about being sent home) or being benched by Bill Belichick and the team performing better than usual, Thomas is not a part of the solution if the Patriots want to return to a Super Bowl contending team.

4. Get a big WR to go opposite Randy Moss.

The one big thing the Patriots lacked this year on offense was a third wide receiver. In 2007 and 2008 they had Jabar Gaffney who was better than everyone thought because he was constantly overshadowed by Wes Welker and Moss, but just ask anyone who watched the Patriots regularly this season that didn’t miss him across the field from Moss. This is why the Patriots need to go and find themselves a capable wide receiver who can take the attention off of Moss’s side of the field. Too many times this season defenses were able to roll coverage to Moss’s side of the field because the Patriots lacked a legitimate third WR.

5. Build defense through the draft.

The Patriots are well-prepared to make a splash in this year’s draft with one first round pick and three second round picks. Not to mention, they also own the Raiders’ 2011 first round pick so their flexibility in the draft should be very good. A lot of times we have watched the Patriots trade down to gather more and more draft picks and “value,” but I feel that this year the team need’s all the help it can get from the draft. This is why I have three requests for Bill Belichick for the 2010 draft:

  • Please draft what you know. What Belichick knows how to draft is defense. If you look at his track record, when he drafts defense early (Richard Seymour, Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, Ty Warren, and Brandon Meriweather) it is a success, but when he drafts offense early (Ben Watson, Daniel Graham, Laurence Maroney, Chad Jackson, and Bethel Johnson) it is far from it. Hopefully Belichick sticks to what he knows and drafts defense with most of his early-round selections in the draft.
  • Do not trade down, in fact, try to trade up. There is a lot of talent to be had and I’m not going to go into the specific players that fit our system (that’s another article for another day). What I do know is that there is better quality at the top of the draft and there is no one better at evaluating quality on the defensive end than Belichick.
  • If Tebow is available in the second round, take the chance. You can read my thoughts on Tim Tebow and why I think he would be a good fit for the Patriots. My request for Belichick is if he is available in the second round the Patriots should take a chance on him because they have the picks to spare and one could be used on one of the greatest college football players ever.

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