By Aaron Jackson,
With the offseason now here Patriots fans will likely move on to the next sport, and with the Bruins and Celtics performing the way they are who can blame them? But before you decide which one to move on to, let’s take a look at 5 burning questions I have for New England’s offseason.
- Will Rob Gronkowski really retire? We saw Ben Roethlisberger flirt with it last year before eventually coming back. We’ve seen numerous examples over the years of players retiring at ages that you wouldn’t see in other sports. The story with Gronk has always been he’s saving every penny of his contract because he uses his endorsement money to live, so financially he doesn’t have any needs. The question then becomes a personal one for him. Does he want to continue to risk his health, and his body breaking down, for another chance at a ring? Perhaps more than any other sport the NFL requires 100% commitment, so if he’s questioning the decision at all would Patriots’ fans still even want him back, knowing he may not go full speed on a route over the middle, or may not sell out to make that spectacular one-handed grab. Would he be able to survive with Tom Brady without a full commitment? Those that brush off Gronk’s comments shouldn’t be so quick to assume he’ll be back.
- What will the Patriots do with some key offensive weapons? Danny Amendola and Dion Lewis are both unrestricted free agents. Amendola has restructured his deal each of the last three off seasons to make less money, but at 32 you do have to wonder when Belichick decides he’s not bringing him back. Remember, he tends to cut players loose before they start to decline, not after. And Bill almost never brings back running backs on big deals, so Lewis is likely as good as gone.
- Who will take over the assistant coach’s roles now vacant? Greg Schiano looks like he’s headed to Gillette to be the team’s defensive coordinator next season, so that may be a short term question. But assuming Josh McDaniels leaves who takes over the offense? Could we see someone like Charlie Weiss make a comeback, or does Belichick have someone waiting in the wings to take over the role? What about any other coaches that are poached from New England in the offseason? That leads me to my next question…
- What will happen with their offensive line? First and foremost, will Dante Scarnecchia return for yet another season at age 70? He already opted to retire once, and we know how the offensive line fared without him. I would argue he would be a bigger loss than either coordinator is. Moreover, Cam Fleming, LaAdrian Waddle and Nate Solder are all free agents, so New England could find themselves with no returning tackles. That’s not good news for any team, never mind one with a 41 year old quarterback. Depending on other decisions they may not have a ton of money to spend on Brady’s new protection. Speaking of Brady…
- What will Belichick do to bring in the next QB in waiting? The easy assumption is he’ll spend another draft pick, likely in the 2nd, 3rd or fourth round, to take another young player and mold him into the next Brady. But what if there isn’t a QB in the draft he’s interested in? Are Patriot fans willing to go into next season with Brian Hoyer as the only backup QB? Or is there someone else on the free agent market Belichick thinks could be the successor? Perhaps more importantly, does he want to go through the process of grooming another Brady replacement given how everything went down with Jimmy G? I think there’s at least a chance Belichick says screw the future knowing he likely won’t be around to be a part of it.