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5 New England Patriots Storylines to Follow Leading Up to Free Agency

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5 New England Patriots Storylines To Follow

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots dealt with a tumultuous season last year. It started off with a murder investigation and ended with a loss to a rival. After going to the team's eighth AFC Championship in 12 years, the team has a lot of questions to answer.

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick aren't getting any younger. Even though it seems like this team beats the odds every year, eventually the luck is going to run out. They are running out of time with this core group to start to win championships. That is always this team's main goal. They haven't raised the Lombardi Trophy since the beginning of 2005. They are closing in on a decade without a title. That is always the storyline that surrounds this team.

The raise in salary cap will really help the Patriots. They don't have a ton of holes to fill, so they don't need to spend a ton of money. Even with the $7.5 million of dead money thanks to Aaron Hernandez, the Patriots still have over $12.5 million in salary cap space. They may make other moves to make some other money available. The way they use that money is going to be very interesting.

2014 is going to be an interesting year for the Patriots. The storylines for this team seem to never stop, but they are never as abundant as they are right before free agency. That is where speculation continues until questions are answered. These are the five biggest storylines to follow going into free agency.

Nick Villano is the New Jersey Devils writer for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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5. What Is The Status Of Rob Gronkowski?

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone saw how much better the Patriots' offense was playing when Rob Gronkowski was in the huddle. His recovery is key for how the Patriots will go about their business this offseason. If he is available from the start of the season, then this team will be in much better shape. If he is not in the lineup, then the tight end position is in ruins. Last year, they had to do what they could with Michael Hoomanawanui and James Develin. They need more pieces for Brady to throw to if his favorite isn't there.

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4. Who Is Going To Get Cut?

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Say what you want about the Patriots, but they are a cold organization. They will cut someone no matter what the situation is. They cut Kyle Love last season after he was diagnosed with diabetes. That is the truest form of the NFL being a business over anything else. They already started with the release of safety Steve Gregory. That will only be the tip of the iceberg.

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3. Will They Go After Another Receiver?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Julian Edelman was surprisingly the team's leading receiver in 2013. Will the Patriots lose their top receiver for a second year in a row? Danny Amendola is supposed to be the guy to replace Wes Welker last season, but Edelman beat him to the punch. They are also missing that outside presence. The three rookies Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins and Josh Boyce showed signs of decency, but always had problems with dropping the ball. Will they hope that these players develop, or are they going after a big name?

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2. How Are The Many Injured Stars?

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Jerod Mayo was lost for the season with a pectoral injury. Vince Wilfork was lost for the season with an achilles injury. Gronkowski was lost for the season with a knee injury. That isn't even the entire list, but you get the point. There are many stars on this team who were lost and who need to be 100 percent next season.

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1. Will Aqib Talib Be Re-signed?

Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Aqib Talib may be the most important Patriot not named Tom Brady. Since he was brought in on a midseason trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he has ended the Patriots' secondary woes. He only came back on a one-year deal, so he is now a free agent. He has said he wants a Darrelle Revis-type deal. That is unlikely to happen seeing his injury history, but he is due for a pay raise. The Patriots need to keep this guy in New England to have the type of defense they want to play.