5 Offseason Moves the Patriots Need to Make in Order to Return to the Super Bowl
Bill Belichick's Pats haven't won a Super Bowl since the 2004 season, which marked their third championship in four years.
While it may be true that the ageless wonder Tom Brady is finally beginning his descent from the top of the quarterback world, every loyal New Englander believes that the Patriots still have what it takes to win the Super Bowl in 2013, as well as many years to come.
The following slides describe some of the offseason moves that Bill Belichick needs to execute in order to make this happen.
Trade and Cut Non-Contributing Players
I used the term non-contributing rather than old because the Patriots do have some great veterans who are still producing at a fantastic rate (Tom Brady, Vince Wilfork, etc...).
However, at the same time, there are some New England players who are being paid to average a tackle a game, which simply does not cut it for a Super Bowl-caliber team.
By doing away with excess, the Pats can increase their efficiency to the point where every player on their team can contribute at a consistent rate.
While this strategy may draw similarities to the 2002 Oakland Athletic's idea of moneyball, it's what's needed to better the team as a whole.
- Trade Deion Branch
While Branch's numbers for the 2011 season (51 receptions for 702 yards) weren't horrific, they certainly were nowhere near what his production rate used to be.
For a second string wide-receiver catching balls from Tom Brady, Branch should be doing a lot better. His career is winding down and the Patriots need to trade him for some second or third round draft picks
- Release Kevin Faulk
Kevin Faulk has been a part of the Patriots for a long time, and he has had some bright spots in his 13-year career.
However, being the fourth-string halfback for one of the most dismal rushing teams in the league is not something he should be proud of.
Faulk, too, is reaching the end of his career, and the Patriots should either cut him or let him stay on the team where he can finally retire.
- Trade Chad Ochocinco
While I'm sure everyone was excited that Ocho got a catch on Sunday, he is not what the Patriots need to make it back to the championship.
Just think of this: Chad caught 15 receptions this season; I'm pretty sure that he tweets more than that in an hour.
Focus on Developing Young Talent
Although the New England Patriots are not thought of as a "youthful" team, they surprisingly have loads of young players with enormous potential.
For starters, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski both came out of the 2009 NFL Draft and have broken out as stars.
The versatility that Gronk and Hernandez bring to the table was one of the things that made the Patriots one of the hardest teams to beat in the National Football League last season.
Along with the two tight ends, the Patriots have other young players that are waiting to break out if they get the attention they deserve.
- Allow Patrick Chung, Sterling Moore, and Brandon Spikes to run the defense.
The under-25 trio of Chung, Moore, and Spikes were three of the lone bright spots in the Patriots' defense, especially in the postseason.
If the trio were to receive the right coaching, along with Devin McCourty and others, they could help improve the defense for years to come.
- Give Stevan Ridley more carries.
The absolute tank known as Stevan Ridley had only 87 carries for 441 yards last season.
However, in the few touches that he did have, Ridley impressed with his power and speed and should help stretch the Patriots offense.
Establish a Running Game
The Patriots finished third in total rushing yards in 2011; not bad, but not very good.
While it may be true that the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants won with the worst rushing statistics in the league, improving the Patriots' run-game would help stretch the defense and improve upon an already multifaceted offense.
- Give Aaron Hernandez more touches.
Yes, the Patriots already have four running-backs to work with, but using tight end Aaron Hernandez as a tailback would prove to be successful for their offense.
In the few touches that he had, Hernandez excelled, using his power and surprising speed to gain yards.
- Stop running the ball out of the shotgun.
All season long, Tom Brady handed the ball off to the likes of Danny Woodhead, Ben-Jarvus Green-Ellis, Stevan Ridley, and Shane Vereen; all out of the shotgun.
While it can be successful because of the surprise factor for the defense, it can also be anticipated and stopped very easily. Changing the formation up would probably improve the Pats' running game.
Bring in Key Players Through Free Agency
Basically every team in the NFL is focusing on Peyton Manning as one of the hottest free agents of all time.
However, for a team with a franchise quarterback like Tom Brady, there are a few other players that would be great additions to the team.
Bringing in experienced Pro-Bowlers on defense would definitely prove successful for the Pats.
- Sign Peyton Hillis.
Peyton Hillis' head was a little too inflated after he was selected for the Madden cover and he barely played last season.
However, everyone knows he's talented and bringing his extraordinary strength and power to the Patriots' running game would be beneficial.
- Sign Cortland Finnegan.
Cortland Finnegan has a history of being somewhat hot-headed, but that's basically what the Patriots need for next season.
Not many players on their defense have that killer instinct with the exception of Vince Wilfork, and adding Finnegan to their secondary would help fill a much-needed hole.
Do Something About the Defense...
There's really not much to say that hasn't really been said about the Patriots' defense.
Simply put, there defensive display in the Super Bowl was just not good for a championship-caliber team. While there were a few bright spots, their lack of depth, especially in the secondary, was essentially the reason the Patriots lost.
- Sign a new defensive coordinator
This really is the only way that the Patriots can get back to the Super Bowl.
While there aren't a ton of great defensive coordinators available on the free agent market, the Patriots need to find someone to improve their defense.
Currently, the Pats don't have a defensive coordinator, and that simply is not going to fly for them.
One option is offering former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher a job; Cowher is the man who built up the Steeler's defense for them as head coach and signing him would make the Patriots a scary team to play.