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On to 2016: Taking a Look at the New England Patriots' Free Agents

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With the Patriots' 2015 season officially over, we can now take a look ahead. At the team's upcoming free agents, for example.

Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

The 2015 NFL season is over... at least for the New England Patriots. Due to the team's 20-18 loss in the AFC Championship Game against the Denver Broncos, the team fell short of defending its Super Bowl title. Therefore, we are officially on to 2016.

New England will try to get healthier, improve and get back to the Super Bowl – and it will have the majority of its 12-4 2015 roster available as a look at the team's upcoming free agency class shows.

Unrestricted Free Agents

RB LeGarrette Blount

CB Tarell Brown

SS Nate Ebner

WR Brandon Gibson

DT Akiem Hicks

RB Steven Jackson

OG Ryan Wendell

SS Tavon Wilson

LB Dekoda Watson

New England will not break the bank to bring any of the team's 10 unrestricted free agents back next year. Ebner is a top candidate to return via a long-term contract, as is Hicks – at least at the right price. Of the others, Brown, Gibson and Wendell have the highest chance of returning and if it is just to give the team proven depth options at relatively thin positions.

With running backs LeGarrette Blount and Steven Jackson hitting free agency, the Patriots could be in a prime position to add another bigger running back as neither of the two projects to be back next year, unless on veteran minimum deals.

Restricted Free Agents

FB James Develin

DT Sealver Siliga

WR Brian Tyms

OT LaAdrian Waddle

Develin looks like a safe bet to return next season, as the team was never able to fill his role post-injury. Siliga, Tyms and Waddle will possibly be back via low-value tender options.

Exclusive Rights Free Agents

WR Josh Boyce

CB Justin Coleman

OT Cameron Fleming

OT Kevin Hughes

DE Rufus Johnson

SS Brandon King

Coleman, Fleming, Johnson and King should be expected back next season. Boyce and Hughes may also be to add depth during the Patriots' offseason.

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Overall, the Patriots are in good shape when it comes to entering 2016 free agency, as almost no key players are on the verge of leaving the team. With core defenders Dont'a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Malcolm Butler and Chandler Jones all up for second contracts in the near future (but still under contract for 2016), this situation plays right into the team's hands.