Between now and the start of the new league year in March, TGS is providing brief summaries looking ahead at the offseason from the perspective of each NFL team. In this edition, we look at the New England Patriots.
2016 record: 14-2 — Super Bowl champions
What’s new? Not much, as they’re coming off another damn Super Bowl. But yeah, Rob Gronkowski is healthy.
Projected salary cap space: $61 million — The fifth-highest projected total in the NFL. Seriously.
Key in-house free agents: LB Dont’a Hightower, TE Martellus Bennett, CB Logan Ryan, DE Jabaal Sheard, DT Alan Branch, RB LeGarrette Blount
A lot of these guys are interchangeable, because Bill Belichick. That said, Hightower has game-changing abilities and they can’t afford to let another key front-seven defender go, especially if they decide against keeping Sheard or Branch. Bennett and Blount will probably be overpaid elsewhere.
Key needs: Front-seven defenders, a running back and a new backup tight end in case Gronk goes down again.
Draft breakdown: One pick in every round, with the 32nd overall selection in Round 1.
Other potential priorities: What to do with skilled backup Jimmy Garoppolo? They could certainly fetch multiple draft picks in exchange for a quarterback who they’d risk losing next offseason anyway, but Garoppolo might be the best option to succeed Tom Brady.
Outlook: It’s a good time to be a Patriots fan.