Here are the biggest offseason losses for the New England Patriots. Each of the following will not be back due to free agency or trade. I'll break down what each player (or coach) did for the team as well as what his replacement(s) are capable of.
While the Pats again enter the season as one of the favorites in the NFL, the departure of the people on this list do leave some questions that have yet to be answered. Therefore, I'll do my best to try and shed some light on these situations.
The former Patriots offensive coordinator was the most highly touted offensive name in the coaching pool, so it's no surprise he landed one of the several head coaching jobs available.
While the young coach has not made many friends with his new team in Denver, his old team will get along fine without him.
Bill O'Brien is ready to step in and coach the quarterbacks while Bill Belichick will handle the bulk of the offensive preparation, the same way he did after Charlie Weis' departure in 2005.
Life on offense should also be easier with Tom Brady back under center as well.
In the most anticipated move of the offseason, the Patriots traded away backup QB Matt Cassel along with Vrabel in return for a second round draft pick (No. 34 overall).
While it was almost a given that Cassel would be on the move, Vrabel's departure was a little bit surprising for some Pats fans.
It shouldn't be. One of the hallmarks to New England's success over the past decade has been that it will not let sentimental value get in the way of actual value when it comes to their roster.
Clearly, the higher ups in the organization felt that Vrabel's decline was too noticeable to ignore. Especially, with the emphasis this offseason on getting younger and deeper on defense.
Vrabel went from a career-high 12.5 sacks in 2007 to just four last season. He only recorded 62 tackles, his lowest total since 2003, and looked exceedingly slow in coming off the edge of the 3-4.
His replacement, whomever it is, may not reach the same talent level, but he'll definitely have the legs to make an impact.
One of the more surprising moves the Pats made during the Draft weekend was to ship starting CB Ellis Hobbs to the Eagles in return for a pair of late round picks. While he may not have been a true number one covering wideouts, Hobbs was the only player set to return in the defensive backfield with more than one year's starting experience.
His departure opens up the floodgates for competition at both starting cornerback spots. Any combination of Shawn Springs, Leigh Bodden, Jonathon Wilhite, Terrence Wheatley and Darius Butler will likely be paired up to start the season.
It is without a doubt the most hotly contested position battle entering training camp.
While it would be foolish to say the Patriots receiving corps isn't strong, they will miss Jabar Gaffney more than you'd think.
The Florida product never quite lived up the hype of a 2nd round pick back in 2002. However, with the attention focused clearly on Randy Moss and Wes Welker, Gaffney was able to shine against opposing teams' third and fourth DB's.
His likely replacements, Joey Galloway and/or Greg Lewis don't have the same kind of precise route running ability that Gaffney utilized so effectively the past few seasons. They are pure speed threats that will open up the field even more for Tom Brady. The idea will likely be to stretch the field on the outside with Moss, Galloway and Lewis, allowing Wes Welker to work in the open areas underneath.
While he won't go down as the most notable loss in name for the Patriots this offseason, Heath Evans departure may make its biggest impact on the field.
He leaves New England without a true blocking back, something that was essential to their rushing attack a year ago. The Pats will likely get by the same way they did in 2007, with a pass first offense engineered by Tom Brady. However, if they hope to have any success in the ground game, someone will need to step up and fill Evans' shoes.
These two have become synonymous with die hard Patriots fans for their work on special teams. In truth, neither will seriously be missed—unless the replacement long snapper can't hit his target.