New England Patriots: What Is Next for 2012?

Tony SantorsaSenior Writer IIFebruary 7, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 05:  Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots watches from the sideline during the game against the New York Giants during Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 5, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Losing Super Bowl XLVI is something that will live with the New England Patriots forever, but in the world of the NFL, the start of free agency is just 35 days away as well as the NFL Scouting Combine beginning at the end of this month.

Once Bill Belichick and the Patriots awake from the nightmare of losing to the New York Giants yet again, they will turn their focus onto next season.

Taking that into consideration, here are five thoughts heading into the 2012 offseason. 


1. Wes Welker's Contract Situation

There is no reason why the Patriots should not re-sign Wes Welker.

He is arguably the NFL's most productive wide receiver as he has had 100-plus receptions in four of his five seasons in New England while averaging a whopping 11 yards per reception.

With Welker's contract expiring, the Patriots need to work out a long-term deal with the 30-year-old, or if all else fails place their franchise tag on him.

Welker is too valuable for the Pats to lose.


2. Need an Upgrade at Wide Receiver

In Super Bowl XLVI, Tom Brady's longest completion was 21-yards to Chad Ochocinco—that is not going to cut it.

I am not saying that New England needs to get a deep-threat wide receiver, but they need to find a true No. 1 wide out to complement Wes Welker in the slot.

One guy that comes to mind is Brandon Lloyd, who spent this past season with the Denver Broncos and the St. Louis Rams and appears to have a solid relationship with his former head coach and current New England offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels. 


3. Improve the Pass Rush

I feel like we say this every single offseason.

The New England Patriots have to improve their pass rush. 

Andre Carter and Mark Anderson are both set to become free agents and I figure that at least one of them will return, if not both.

I'm not sold on Anderson, as he fits best as a situational pass rusher, but Carter is the real deal. He can play all three downs and is effective against the pass as well as the run. 

Along with bringing back Carter, I would highly recommend looking at the 2012 draft for some help in this area. 


4. Need to Find a No. 1 Cornerback

Heading into 2011, we all thought that Pro Bowler Devin McCourty was the team's No. 1 cornerback—well, he struggled tremendously.

I am expecting the Patriots to check out the draft for a possible upgrade and they could even bring in a seasoned veteran to add some experience and leadership to their rather young secondary.

I'm not advocating cutting ties with McCourty, as the talent and potential is still there, but it's just a matter of being consistent. 


5. How Far Will the Patriots Go For BenJarvus Green-Ellis

One number that I would throw out there is $2 million, as that is the absolute max that I would go on BenJarvus Green-Ellis.

Green-Ellis is a solid running back that has yet to fumble in his NFL career, but he doesn't present any real threat. 

When the Patriots drafted Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen in the top half of last year's draft, I believe that Bill Belichick was making a statement that those two guys will be their future workhorses—the question is, where does Green-Ellis fit in? 


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