5 Offseason Predictions for the Patriots

Erik Frenz@ErikFrenzSenior Writer IFebruary 26, 2015

5 Offseason Predictions for the Patriots

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    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    The New England Patriots made it to the NFL's mountaintop by winning Super Bowl XLIX, but they will have a long and difficult journey if they want to make it back. 

    By now, most of us are familiar with the biggest storylines surrounding the Patriots. In case you need a quick rundown:

    1. Cornerback Darrelle Revis is due a $12 million roster bonus that becomes fully guaranteed on March 9.
    2. The Patriots have 11 unrestricted free agents, according to Spotrac, including safety Devin McCourty, kicker Stephen Gostkowski, left guard Dan Connolly and running backs Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley.
    3. Linebacker Jerod Mayo and defensive tackle Vince Wilfork are set to count for roughly $10.3 million and $8.9 million against the salary cap, respectively. 

    The only constant in the NFL is change, and the nature of free agency and the draft makes the offseason unpredictable. 

    But what fun would it be to just wait and see what happens? Here are some predictions, which we'll check back on in a few months for accuracy.

Devin McCourty Will Get the Franchise Tag

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    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    The Patriots have a number of important free agents this offseason, but safety Devin McCourty is the only one that really makes sense for the franchise tag. 

    In the past, the Patriots have had a hard time coming to terms on long-term deals with their defensive backs. They have drafted 26 defensive backs under Bill Belichick, but only James Sanders signed a new deal with the Patriots after his rookie deal expired.

    The only exceptions: Cornerback Asante Samuel was hit with the franchise tag in 2007, and Patrick Chung was brought back last year after a one-year stint with the Philadelphia Eagles

    McCourty is a true "glue guy" on the defense, not only for his role as a communicator on the back end, but also for his leadership as a team captain for the past two seasons. The Patriots have one week to decide whether they want to use the franchise tag, and if they haven't reached a long-term deal with McCourty by then, they could use the tag to help bridge the gap and ensure he stays on the roster.

Patriots Will Reach Long-Term Deal with Darrelle Revis

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    If the Patriots have an offseason priority list, this should be 1a.

    Last offseason, Darrelle Revis had his pick of multiple teams—including a reunion with the New York Jets and Revis' good friend Rex Ryan. But he turned down those offers for an opportunity to suit up for the Patriots and take a run at a Super Bowl trophy. Now that he has earned his very first ring, some folks may think Revis would go right back to being a "hitman for hire," collecting a king's ransom to be a shutdown cornerback for the highest bidder.

    But after his first taste of real success in the NFL, it may be hard for Revis to go from filet mignon to Hamburger Helper. It may come down to a difference of a few million dollars per year for a few more years with a contending team, but Revis has already proved he's willing to take less money to play for a contender once before.

Big Turnover at Running Back

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Patriots running backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen are both going to hit the open market as free agents this offseason unless the Patriots do something about it. But they have seen this offseason coming for awhile, and were already taking measures to get ahead of the curve by signing Brandon Bolden to a contract extension, bringing back LeGarrette Blount, claiming Tyler Gaffney off waivers, drafting James White in the fourth round last year and last offseason's acquisition of Jonas Gray.

    Ridley's season-ending ACL injury may help him net a one-year, prove-it deal from the Patriots or elsewhere, but it is more likely that the Patriots would go another direction since they already have so many other options in the fold.

    As for Vereen, his big role in the Super Bowl (11 receptions, 64 yards; four carries, 13 yards) may have upped his stock to a point where the Patriots may be outbid by a team eager to see if they can help him maximize his potential. 

    With all the preemptive moves the Patriots made, it's not looking good for Ridley and Vereen to make a return to New England next season.

Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork Will Restructure Their Contracts

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    Mike Groll/Associated Press

    Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork have been the heartbeat in the middle of the Patriots front seven for years, but that heartbeat is beginning to slow and wear down with time. The Patriots could be approaching both men about their contracts this offseason.

    Mayo is set to count $10.3 million against the salary cap, and Wilfork is set to count $8.9 million against the cap. The Patriots could save a lot of money by cutting them, but the team is not deep enough at defensive tackle or at linebacker to justify letting either one of them walk away just yet.

    Expect both men to be asked to restructure their deals and get them to a more manageable cap number, which would allow the team to accomplish its goals of re-signing Revis, Gostkowski, McCourty and others.

Patriots' 1st-Round Pick Will Not Be an Offensive Lineman

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    South Carolina offensive lineman A.J. Cann may be a target of the Patriots, but he will not be the ultimate first-round pick.
    South Carolina offensive lineman A.J. Cann may be a target of the Patriots, but he will not be the ultimate first-round pick.David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    The Patriots brought back former offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia to help them scout prospects on the offensive line. For years with Scarnecchia at the helm, the Patriots took diamonds in the rough and sanded their edges and polished them into solid starters. So, why wouldn't they bring Scarnecchia back to help them get the best value available on the offensive line?

    There are plenty of prospects that could be chosen in the third to fifth rounds, including Florida State guard Josue Matias, Louisville guard John Miller, Tennessee State guard Robert Myers, Arizona State guard Jamil Douglas and others.

    The Patriots could find an immediate star in the first round, but they have also been drafting and developing offensive linemen selected in the middle rounds for years. Why would they switch it up now?

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