5 New England Patriots Who Mean the Most to the Team’s Future
The Patriots' Future: The Five Most Important Patriots
The New England Patriots had an impressive and disappointing season in 2013 as they battled through various injuries on both sides of the ball to make it to the AFC Championship Game, ultimately losing to the Denver Broncos. I have written about the enormous success the Patriots and their fans have enjoyed under the ownership of Robert Kraft, how I thought the 2013 season may have been Bill Belichick’s best as an NFL head coach (and that is really saying something), how the Patriots need to work on their receiving corps through the draft or free agency (Hakeem Nicks or Riley Cooper would be good additions) and how the Patriots need to help the tight end position (talk Tony Gonzalez out of retirement please).
The Patriots definitely have decisions to make this offseason to ensure they remain competitive since fans now expect the team to be a Super Bowl contender every season. The Patriots need to make the most of Tom Brady’s final years under center. Brady’s current contract is up after the 2017 season, and I’m not sure if he will continue playing after that. Brady will turn 40 on Aug. 3 right before the 2017 season starts, so even if he does want to continue playing QB in the NFL after his current contract is up, is there any guarantee fans would be getting the same Brady they have grown accustomed to?
Trust me, as a lifelong Patriots fan I hate to even think about the day Brady will no longer be under center, but that day is coming. Brady’s importance to the Patriots is undeniable, but the Brady era coming to an end in the somewhat near future is unavoidable and the Patriots will have to move on to another QB. While the Patriots have Brady they need to make the most of what he brings to the table. It would be a severe injustice to Brady and Patriots’ fans if the front office didn’t do everything in their power to surround Brady with the talent needed to win another Super Bowl.
But who are the five Patriots who mean the most to the team’s future? Is it Brady with his contract ending after the 2017 season? Is it someone who was injured this season? This article will highlight the five Patriots I feel are the most important to the team’s future.
Justin Patrick is a New England Patriots writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @calling_allfans, like him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.
5. Aqib Talib
There is no doubt that Talib was an important part of the Patriots’ defense in 2013 and his getting injured on that cheap shot by Wes Welker changed the AFC Championship Game. Again, I’m not sure if the Patriots would have won anyway, but that Talib injury changed the complexion of the game. Talib is a shutdown corner who can cover the opposing team’s best receiver one on one. If the Patriots do not franchise tag Talib (may be hard to unless they can find some salary cap relief), hopefully they can sign Talib to a two or three-year incentive-laden contract. I want Talib to remain with the Patriots just not with huge guaranteed money. What the Patriots decide to do with Talib is vitally important. If the Patriots do not hit Talib with the franchise tag and they fail to sign him to a multiyear deal, they have to figure out how to strengthen their defensive backfield.
4. Ryan Mallet
On Feb. 9 I wrote an article stating the Patriots should trade backup QB Ryan Mallet. I still believe this to be the case. Mallet being an attractive trading piece in this new pass-happy NFL makes him important to the Patriots not because I believe he’ll be on the field for the team, but because of the draft pick(s) the Patriots could receive in a trade.
3. Rob Gronkowski
When Gronkowski is on the field he is the best tight end in the NFL. Okay, Jimmy Graham is really, really close, but I’ll still take a healthy Gronkowski over any other tight end. The issue is, can Gronkowksi stay healthy? He tore his right ACL and MCL against the Cleveland Browns on Dec. 8, so there is a good chance Gronkowski starts the 2014 season on the physically unable to perform list. If he misses a substantial portion of the 2014 season, the Patriots’ offense will suffer. If Gronkowski misses the playoffs again, that would be almost soul crushing to Patriots fans at this point. His size make him a matchup nightmare for opposing cornerbacks, and his quickness causes issues for opposing linebackers. Gronk is a sure target for Brady and makes all of the other receivers better because of the attention he draws from opposing defenses. Gronkowski’s health, as always it seems, is something to monitor throughout the offseason and throughout the 2014 season once he’s back on the field. A healthy Gronkowski is vitally important to the Patriots in 2014 and beyond.
2. Tom Brady
I have talked about Brady’s accomplishments (three Super Bowl wins in five trips, eight Championship Game appearances—the most all time, and the intangibles he brings to the table). I believe Brady is the second only to Joe Montana in the discussion of the best QBs of all time. As I stated previously, I am not looking forward to the day Brady is no longer under center for the Patriots. Patriots fans just expect Brady to win, and more often than not he does.
There is a reason Brady is not No. 1, though. Click to see who is the most important Patriot.
1. Bill Belichick
People are always trying to decide if Brady made Belichick or if Belichick made Brady. I say they just happened to be paired together at the right time and both are two of the best ever at what they do. Patriots fans love that Belichick does what it takes to win. As I previously wrote, Belichick is not a jerk; he is just no nonsense when it comes to football. Belichick expects maximum effort from everyone because that is what he puts in in an effort to help the Patriots continue to win. The only reason Belichick is ranked ahead of Brady is because I’m assuming (and I hope I am right) that Belichick will still be the head coach of the Patriots once Brady’s contract is up after the 2017 season. I’m less certain about Brady’s future which I am not happy about.