**Disclaimer: Before you break out the "Hater-Ade" and send irate feedback, I have been a huge New England Patriots fan for all of my life. I am simply playing the pessimist and harping on some issues that the organization might need to address this offseason.**
It's not looking good for the Patriots. The core of the team is pretty much all over 30 and, minus a few, there are not too many young players ready to step in that anybody is very excited about.
On top of this, as much as we Pats fans hate to admit it, the New York Jets seem to be moving away from being pretenders with big mouths, and closer to the AFC East's proverbial driver's seat.
Running down the list, this is who the Patriots have on the roster, going into what should be an interesting offseason:
QB : We all know Tom Brady is in the conversation for the top 20, if not top 10, quarterbacks the league has ever seen. With that said, the knee injury definitely slowed him down this season, making him look like a boy among men during some games
Unfortunately us New Englanders expect another season like 2007 out of him, and that isn't going to happen. He needs to get his head back into football and less into the modeling and his "Hollywood" status (See the HBO hit series, Entourage ).
WR : No offense to Randy Moss, but his attitude shadows that of the last few years with the Vikings. He seems to be trotting more than running, reaching more than diving, and giving up more than fighting. Bottom line: he is frustrated with no ring and it is showing.
Wes Welker is the man. Period. However, with the cuts he makes and abuse he takes, what can be expected of him after shredding his knee in Houston? Only time will tell, but Pats fans hold their collective breath for a speedy recovery.
Julian Edelman is a great project, and has flashes of brilliance, but he is nowhere near a true third receiver. Brandon Tate showed promise at North Carolina as long as he wasn't injured, which was more often than not. After that there really is nobody, as demonstrated by the carousel of players coming through the system in the last two years.
RB : Let's be honest. The Pats have four good backs. Not one of them is a starter nor can any of them stay healthy.
O-Line : With the exception of Sebastian Vollmer, the age of the offensive line is a huge concern. They consistently got beaten and with an injury-conscience QB. That is a bad combination.
Defense : The Pats are so thin that they had to play a 2-5 formation for a couple of games due to injury on the D-line. Derrick Burgess is the only true DE listed on the roster.
The linebackers showed some promise this season, for about a total of 35 plays. Adalius Thomas appears to be on the way out, and other than Mayo and Guyton, nobody has the power and speed to stop the run.
Meriweather looked good most of the year, but there are plenty of question marks due to age and typical Belichick contract issues that leave the secondary a big concern. Darius Butler also looks as though he is going to pan out, but as demonstrated all year, he seems to be out on an island.
Leadership : This is the biggest concern for the whole team, outside of maybe a lack of youth everywhere. Brady and Moss have each said there is a lack of leadership and both of them are offensive captains. Jerod Mayo was a captain in his second year, and while he may deserve it, he is extremely young and Vince Wilfork was hurt a few games and was more of a lead-by-example kind of guy. None of the four are the verbal leaders that Tedy Bruschi or Rodney Harrison were.
The draft will be interesting especially because Bill Belichick seems to refuse to end the weekend with the same picks that he started it with. The first rounder will almost certainly be shopped, as usual, because there still is no ceiling for a rookie's salary and Belichick hates paying players a lot of money, especially rookies.
Additionally, do not look for big names via free agency because, again, Belichick rarely pays players their worth and the Patriots front office is not going to get into a bidding war in an uncapped year.
Sadly, this could be a transition year, and while the Patriots will compete and do well, it seems like they are leaning more toward a Super Bowl run in the 2011-12 season. However, the Patriots are always ready to surprise everyone, so nobody, including myself, should be surprised if they go for it all next year.