There will be a lot of decisions facing the New England Patriots this offseason, with a lot of them coming in the form of players whose contracts have run out. In a perfect world, the Pats would re-sign pretty much everybody, but the salary cap presents them with many challenges, headlined by players that feel snubbed by not getting a new contract.
Here are five players who I believe the Patriots have to re-sign, in the coming months.
1. Julian Edelman
Edelman emerged as Tom Brady’s favorite target in 2013, catching over 100 balls for the first time in his career. Edelman is an extremely tough cover for defensive backs, and because of that, he makes the middle of the field something New England dominates. Edelman is the closest thing the Patriots have to a number one receiver, and it is vital for them to re-sign him, to give their offense some stability heading into 2014.
2. Aqib Talib
The only issue that Talib has, is health. When healthy, he is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. But he has struggled with staying on the field while in Foxboro, which won’t help him get a big contract this offseason. But I do think the two sides will be able to come together and agree on a reasonable price, keeping Talib in New England.
3. LeGarrette Blount
He disappeared in the AFC Championship game, but we shouldn’t let that block our memories of what he did up until that game. Blount was an absolute monster, bringing a physical presence to the backfield that hadn’t been there in quite some time. The combination of Stevan Ridley, and Blount proved to be very effective late in the year, and I think he will be back in 2014.
4. Michael Hoomanawanui
All things considered, Hoomanawanui had a great 2013 campaign. Obviously he isn’t the receiving threat that Rob Gronkowski is, but he filled in admirably while Gronk was out, particularly in the running game. You would be hard pressed to find a better blocking tight end than Hoomanawanui, and with the uncertainty surrounding Gronk’s health, the Pats would be wise to bring Hooman back.
5. Dane Fletcher
The starting linebacker rotation appears to be set for 2014, as unless Brandon Spikes is surprisingly brought back, Jerod Mayo, Dont’a Hightower, and Jamie Collins will start for the Pats. But Dane Fletcher showed that he is a solid backup, and not only in the passing game. We all thought we had Fletcher pegged as a coverage linebacker, but his run defense wasn’t too bad. Bringing him back should be an easy decision for Belichick and company.