BOSTON (CBS) – The off-season came a few weeks before the Patriots would have liked it, but the preparation for 2014 has already begun for New England.

Bill Belichick and the rest of his staff has some tough decisions to make this off-season, and it starts with a few of the team’s free agents. They have big names on both sides of the ball that are due for big pay days, but’s Mike Reiss said it should all start with corner Aqib Talib.

“To me, when you think of off-season priorities, it starts with Aqib Talib because he’s a difference-maker on the defensive side of the ball,” Reiss said on Sunday night’s Sports Final on WBZ-TV.

Reiss isn’t sure if the Patriots will hit Talib with the franchise tag, but he does expect a hard push by the team to re-sign the corner.

“You start with this date: February 17. That’s the first day teams can place the franchise or transition tag on impending free agents,” he said. “I’m not sure if they’ll do it with Talib; the hit will be around $11 million for one year. You saw them do it with (Wes) Welker for one year at $9.5, but  $11 million is a lot. Their cap situation isn’t great so they’ll have to move some things around to do it.”

Gallery: Patriots Free Agents

On the offensive side of the ball, wide receiver Julian Edelman is about to hit free agency after putting up career numbers in 2013.

Reiss says the Patriots should expect to start with the five-year, $31-million deal they gave Danny Amendola last off-season in their negotiations with Edelman, but they’ll have plenty of competition for his services on the open market.

“I think they would [start with the Amendola deal], but I think another team might go higher,” said Reiss. “The biggest thing is now you have Bill O’Brien in Houston, a guy with a Patriots background. You have Cleveland with a lot of cap space and their slot guy, Davone Bess, no longer is really in the mix with all his issues. So the market for [Edelman] might go a higher level than the Patriots are comfortable going.”

Gallery: Potential Free Agent Targets For Patriots

Tune in to WBZ-TV’s Sports Final every Sunday night at 11:35 p.m.!

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