Well now that it has been five days since the Super Bowl, I think it is safe to look ahead to 2012. 2012 should be yet another great season for the Patriots. They return a bunch of players and will still have their two biggest leaders Tom Brady and Vince Wilfork. With that being said, there will be some new faces, and some players not coming back.
Lets start with the offense. The biggest question on this side of the ball, and for the team in general is will Wes Welker return. I would say there is a 90 percent chance of him returning. He has talked about how Brady makes him a better receiver. It would not surprise me to see Welker take less money to stay with the Patriots. He and his fiance just bought a house in the Boston area as well.
Sticking with the wide receivers I would say that Chad “Johnson” will not be back with the team, although I would not be surprised if he were to return. He still has one year remaining on his contract. Deion Branch will also be a tough decision to make. He doesn’t have many years, if any left in the tank. To me I think the Patriots can go out and get an explosive receiver, maybe even through the draft to replace Branch.
Although he is more of a special teams player, wide receiver Matthew Slater will be a free agent, but I would expect the Patriots to resign him. He is a Bill Belichick type of player, and special teams captain. He does so many little things that get unnoticed by the casual fan. Although he doesn’t contribute much offensively his presence on special teams make up for it.
Both Kevin Faulk and Benjarvus Green-Ellis will be free agents. Faulk will likely retire, so Green-Ellis will be the the most interesting decision. The team has rookie running backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen in waiting, who didn’t see much playing time this season, but showed promise when they did. To me, I would ride the ship with Ridley, Vereen and Danny Woodhead. You cannot have this many running backs on the same roster, they cannot get into any rhythm.
Defensively the team needs a lot of work. The only position group that is set is the linebackers led by Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes, who both excelled throughout the playoffs. I cannot see Gary Guyton returning. The defensive line has a lot of free agents including Gerard Warren, Shaun Ellis, Mark Anderson and Andre Carter. It wouldn’t surprise me if the team resigns all of them except Ellis. The unit came along towards the end of the season and play well along Wilfork.
In my opinion the secondary should be completely blown up, only retaining Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung. This was the worst area for the Patriots all season long and needs to be changed and addressed. It has been a work in progress for three or four years now and a lot of players just haven’t worked out through the draft. Belichick should spend some money and sign some proven defensive backs instead of trying to rebuild through the draft.
Although it was a very tough way to end 2011, the 2012 Patriots have the talent to get right back to where they were, but this time come out on top.