TEAM NEEDS/OFFSEASON STRATEGY
Despite an undefeated regular season and continuity on the coaching staff, the 2008 Patriots could look very different. New England enters the offseason with the potential for huge roster turnover at key spots on both sides of the ball. Defensively both linebacker and the defensive backfield could be greatly affected. Aging veterans Junior Seau (38) is a free agents and could retire, while outside linebacker Rosevelt Colvin was released. In the secondary, Asante Samuel left for Philadelphia, meaning the Patriots lost their only young proven playmaker and best overall player in the back end of the defense. That necessitates the team to pursue at least one corner in either free agency or the draft to help out what is already a weak group.
Offensively, the priority, for the second year in a row, is at wide receiver. Randy Moss is a free agent. Wide receivers Troy Brown and Jabar Gaffney are free agents along with Moss and Donte' Stallworth, while injury prone former second-round pick Chad Jackson has yet to prove himself, meaning Wes Welker is the only receiver in the top six spots of the this year's receiver depth chart assured to be back with Tom Brady in 2008.
1. Linebacker: Junior Seau is a free agent and could retire. Rosevelt Colvin was released. Tedy Bruschi re-signed, but none of the team's younger linebackers are in line to earn significant roles moving forward. Youth and athleticism is clearly needed at a spot that does still include All-Pro Mike Vrabel and '07 free-agent prize Adalius Thomas.
3. Safety: Rodney Harrison says he's coming back, but he's 35. Eugene Wilson is a free agent and as good as gone. First-round pick Brandon Meriweather played more late in the year, but is still very much unproven. Harrison stayed healthy last fall for the first time in three years, and it's hard to count on the same happening moving forward so depth surrounding budding starter James Sanders could be an issue.
MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--WR Troy Brown:
--WR Jabar Gaffney: Making visits, including Tampa Bay and New York
--S Mel Mitchell: Might be done in NE.
--WR Randy Moss: Still no word (see recent news)
--CB Chad Scott: Ended season on IR, status unknown
--LB Junior Seau: Offseason surgery, status unkonwn
--DB Eugene Wilson: Currently making visits
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--DL Rashad Moore (not tendered as RFA) spent camp with New England and returned as a backup after injuries hit late in the year. Could be back to compete for a backup role.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--DL Mike Wright (tendered at $1.417M with 2nd-round pick as compensation) is a former undrafted free agent who's developed into a nice backup/special teamer in New England.
--LB T.J. Slaughter: FA; $730,000/1 yr.
--LB Tedy Bruschi: Potential UFA; terms unknown.
--LB Larry Izzo: Potential UFA; terms unknown.
--LS Lonie Paxton: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--WR Kelley Washington: UFA; terms unknown.
--TE Kyle Brady (released/failed physical).
--LB Rosevelt Colvin (released/failed physical).
--CB Randall Gay: UFA Saints; 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--CB Asante Samuel: UFA Eagles; $57M/6 yrs, $20M guaranteed.
--WR Donte Stallworth: UFA Browns; $35M/7 yrs, $10M guaranteed.