Patriots' five biggest offseason issues: Uncertainty reigns in New England
BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – The New England Patriots have been the most prolific dynasty over the past two decades. But Sunday's Super Bowl LII loss to the Philadelphia Eagles raised some concerns about the future, and the team will have five significant concerns to address in the offseason.
1. How will Tom Brady fare at 41 years old?
Brady won his third league MVP award Saturday night and remains one of the most productive and clutch passers in the NFL after breaking his own Super Bowl record for most passing yards. But he still will turn 41 this August, and questions remain about whether a drop-off could finally arrive. Brady, however, has said he wants to play to his mid-40s and has shattered expectations about what to expect from a quarterback of his age.
2. Will Gronk be back?
Rob Gronkowski raised some eyebrows after the Patriots' loss on Sunday night by stopping short of committing to play next season. If the all-pro tight end does decide to retire at 28, it would be a crippling below to New England's offense. No one creates mismatches like Gronkowski, who led the team with 69 catches, 1,084 receiving yards and eight touchdown receptions last season. The Patriots have to hope that Gronkowski just didn't want to address his future at the time, though the receiving corps will get a boost with the return of Julian Edelman.
3. Staff change
The Patriots will have to replace defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, officially hired by the Lions on Monday, but the team was dealt a bit of a surprise when offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels elected to remain rather than the Indianapolis Colts' head coaching position. The contract of special teams coordinator Joe Judge is also expiring at the end of the season, per multiple reports. Though transition is inevitable, the Patriots like to promote from within and already have viable candidates as replacements. Assuming New England sticks with the in-house route, look for linebackers coach Brian Flores to lead the defense.
4. Hitting the market
Like all teams entering the offseason, the Patriots need to determine which of their impending free agents will be their priorities. The most interesting situations concern left tackle Nate Solder, 29, cornerback Malcolm Butler, 27, receiver Danny Amendola, 32, and running back Dion Lewis, 27. Butler seems like a lock to leave after his unceremonious Super Bowl benching. All players are key contributors. But New England, more so than any other franchise in the NFL, has been able to replace productive players with more affordable options.
5. Finding a successor
When the Patriots dealt former backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers prior to the 2017 trading deadline, they parted with any future the team might have at quarterback beyond Brady. Finding a young and talented backup option is not an imminent need given Brady's return, but it's undoubtedly something to be addressed in the near future. The Patriots have Brian Hoyer through the 2019 season, but the 32-year-old is at best a short-term solution. Beyond him, New England doesn’t have another passer on its roster. Look for the Patriots to strongly consider taking a quarterback at some point in the NFL draft. If an intriguing prospect at the position is available at the end of the first round, New England might take the leap.
Follow Lorenzo Reyes on Twitter @LorenzoGReyes.
PHOTOS: Super Bowl LII