BOSTON (CBS) – With Sunday’s disappointing AFC Championship loss, the Patriots joined the other 29 teams in the NFL and will be sitting at home for the Super Bowl.
With no game to prepare for, now is the time to look toward the future in building their roster for 2014, where Bill Belichick, Nick Caserio and company have some tough personnel decisions.
Pick-a-Side: Patriots Free Agent Priorities
Cornerback Aqib Talib, wide receiver Julian Edelman, running back LeGarrette Blount and linebacker Brandon Spikes headline the list of their top free agents, but the Patriots will likely need to search for talent outside the organization in order to get over the proverbial hump.
It was evident to all who watched that the Patriots were simply overmatched against Denver when it came down to offensive playmakers.
Esiason On Toucher & Rich: Brady Needs More Playmakers, But Will Patriots Spend Money?
Unless they are expecting Edelman to be back in the mix and a breakout second year from Aaron Dobson, Tom Brady will not have the weapons it takes to go all the way.
So how do they remedy that?
The Patriots showed interest last offseason in Steelers receiver Emmanuel Sanders but were unable to sign him.
They’ll get another crack at it this free agency period, where Sanders is available once again. Sanders, Eric Decker, Anquan Boldin and Hakeem Nicks round out the top free agents of the wide receiver class – so those are some viable options on the table.
LeGarrette Blount had a breakout season and got his first taste of playoff football as the bell cow of the Patriots backfield, and as a free agent this offseason, he’d like the good times in New England to continue.
Speaking to the media yesterday while cleaning out his locker, Blount waxed poetic about the “best coach to ever coach” in Bill Belichick and expressed his desire to remain a Patriot.
With the emergence of Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower at the end of the year, the Patriots linebacking corps should be solid – especially with Jerod Mayo set to return from injury – so that means Brandon Spikes is all but gone.
Perhaps the biggest of all the team’s decisions is with cornerback Aqib Talib. When healthy, the Pro Bowler is capable of shutting down the opposing team’s best wide receiver. And when he’s not healthy . . . well, we saw how that turned out against the Broncos.
Can the Patriots trust Talib to stay healthy with his chronic hip injuries and sign him long term? Or do they keep him with the franchise tag, which is expected to be north of $11 million for cornerbacks?
Other Patriots free agents include Ryan Wendell, Dane Fletcher, Michael Hoomanawanui, Andre Carter, Austin Collie and Danny Aiken – listen below to hear Fred Toucher and Jon Wallach break it all down: