Welcome to the new decade, welcome to the roaring 20s! For the New England Patriots, the next years project to be a time of some major organizational change: neither head coach Bill Belichick nor quarterback Tom Brady are projected to keep coaching and playing for a considerable period of timeg, respectively, while on ownership change from Robert Kraft to his son Jonathan might also happen at one point.
For now, however, let us focus on the year 2020 and what the Patriots need to do to have a successful start into this new decade and the unknown it brings.
Resolution No. 1: Get the offense going
The most short-term resolution on this list could have major implications on the Patriots’ potential in the playoffs. After all, the team has struggled offensively for much of the regular season and last week’s loss against the Miami Dolphins was no exception: while the blocking up front was mostly solid, the passing game execution was not up to par as Tom Brady and his receiving corps once again had a hard time getting on the same page.
With the first postseason game only three days away, Brady and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels need to find a way to finally get the offense going at least as a competent complementary piece to the defense. If they can do that — be it by focusing on the running game or by giving players such as James White, Rex Burkhead or first-round rookie N’Keal Harry more chances as receiving options — the Patriots could be able to make some noise in the playoffs. If not, their season will likely come to a quick end.
Resolution No. 2: Re-sign some of the core free agents
No matter if their season ends in January or February, or in defeat or victory, the Patriots have their work cut out for them as it relates to free agency. While the team will have considerable resources to work with — around $30 million against a $200 million cap, per the Boston Sports Journal’s Miguel Benzan — they most likely will need every cent they can get when looking at their list of free-agents-to-be.
Quarterback Tom Brady, guard Joe Thuney, safety Devin McCourty, linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins, and core special teamers Matthew Slater and Nate Ebner are all on their way to hitting the open market next offseason. It seems unlikely all of them will be brought back given the team’s current financial situation but re-signing a considerable portion has to be the plan.
Resolution No. 3: Figure out the quarterback situation
Speaking of Brady, the greatest quarterback to ever play the game is scheduled to hit the open market for the first time in his historic career. The Patriots will then need to decide on the future of their organization, how the soon-to-be 43-year-old fits into their plans, and whether or not an investment in a potential successor needs to be made via the draft or free agency — or if 2019 fourth-round draft pick Jarrett Stidham could be that man.
Resolution No. 4: Find replacements for Josh McDaniels and Nick Caserio if need be
New England’s success over the past two decades has made their staff members popular around the league. Some major Patriots roots can be found in two playoff teams — the Tennessee Titans and the Houston Texans — and it seems likely that other organization will again try to pry some of the team’s off-field talent away this year. Two men in particular stand out in this regard: offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and director of player personnel Nick Caserio.
The Cleveland Browns, Carolina Panthers and New York Giants all requested interviews with McDaniels to fill their head coaching vacancies and a departure in 2020 certainly is possible after he held the same role i nNew England for the past eight years. The same goes for Caserio: while no team has yet openly expressed interest, it seems likely that clubs will consider him as a potential general manager.
New England therefore needs to be prepared to hand their respective roles to somebody else. On offense, wide receivers (and special teams) coach Joe Judge seems like a popular option. In the front office, director of college scouting Monti Ossenfort might be the next man up in case Caserio leaves town.
Resolution No. 5: Add young talent to an aging roster
Even though their offense has struggled at times this season, the Patriots still have one of the deepest rosters in the NFL from top to bottom. However, the group of players is a comparatively old one and the team needs to add considerable young talent through the draft. This also would have a major impact on New England’s pay roll: rookies are noticeably cheaper than veterans signed through free agency. While the Patriots will still take that road as well — and also explore trades — adding cheap, young players is imperative.