Speaking on a conference call with the media just two days after the most disappointing loss of his storied career, coach Bill Belichick was already working getting back to the Super Bowl. The first step of the offseason process involves evaluating the roster, and with turnover being a major part of the current NFL landscape, it's only natural to wonder which players will remain Patriots in 2008.
"We're starting all over into the 2008 season," Belichick said. "It's already time to move on. We're into the offseason and that's just the way it is, so we'll start moving ahead toward next year."
The Patriots have several key players who may not be a part of that process moving forward. The individuals involved could be split into two groups - potential retirees and free agent. The former includes the likes of Junior Seau, Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison and Troy Brown while the latter is headed by Asante Samuel and Randy Moss.
Following the stunning Super Bowl loss to the Giants, many of the above players spoke about their futures but understandably weren't ready to make any definitive statements. Neither Seau nor Bruschi would discuss potential retirement.
"I haven't thought about the future," Seau said. "I am having way too much fun."
Brown, who didn't play much of a role with the team in 2007, would seem the best candidate to call it a career, but he didn't sound that way following the game.
"A lot of what is going to happen is going to be my decision and some other people's decisions," he said. "We'll take some time to recover from this one, this wasn't a great end to the season, and we'll see what happens."
Obviously, less than hour following a devastating defeat is not the best time to discuss a player's intentions, a point Belichick illustrated during his conference call.
"I don't think the day after the season is a great time to make decisions about anything," Belichick said. "I think we all need to give the end of the season a little bit of time. Whatever decisions need to be made, sometimes they're timely decisions and you can't wait forever on them, but I don't think the day after the season is a great time to be making important decisions on anything.
"How those players feel a week from now, or two weeks from now could be entirely different. Immediately after a particular game a lot of times those are emotional decisions and not really good fundamental ones."
While the decisions on retirement, for the most part, are personal and not financially motivated, the free agents are a different story. Moss and Samuel both spoke after the game and expressed their desire to remain in New England.
"I would love to be in a Patriots uniform, but if I'm not the show must go on," Moss said before discussing the team's desire to return to the Super Bowl.
"The only thing we can do is bounce back," he added. "This does hurt. The good thing is we can come back and try to bounce back from this next year. We got a long wait until next year, so that's the bad thing about it."
Those certainly don't sound like the words of a man intending on signing elsewhere next season. But ultimately it could come down to money, and if Moss hits the open market he's sure to get some lucrative offers.
As for Samuel, he, too, was saying the right things.
"I've said from the start that if it's up to me I'll be back," Samuel said when asked if he'd just played his last game as a Patriot. "But it has to be the right situation for everyone. I love my teammates and I love everything about the time I've spent here. This is the team that drafted me and it's the only home I've ever known. Hopefully things will work out and I'll be a Patriot for the rest of my career."
Samuel figures to be the tougher call considering his age. He'll be in line not only for big bucks but also a long-term deal, something the Patriots may not be eager to get involved with.
The potential for turnover is not limited to free agents and possible retirements. Contract restructurings and bonuses could also factor into the mix. Rosevelt Colvin is slated to take up $7.6 million in cap space in 2008. That's the second highest total on the team (behind Tom Brady) and probably too much for the Patriots. He'll be a candidate for restructuring at the least, or he could even be released depending on his health.
Receivers Donte' Stallworth and Kelley Washington were solid contributors in 2007 but both are due sizable roster bonuses next month. Neither will get them and both will thus become free agents.
Stallworth will likely hit the market and get a substantial offer considering he shook off the injury bug and played in every game, and even though his production (46 catches, 697 yards, three touchdowns) was average, he was the third option in an explosive offense and teams could view him as a No. 1 receiver. The Patriots would likely want him back at their price, but that might not be possible if he hits the market.
Washington was outstanding on special teams but coverage players don't warrant $4 million roster bonuses. If he's willing to return at a more reasonable rate, he could vie for a receiver position, especially if some combination of Moss, Stallworth and pending free agent Jabar Gaffney don't return.