Bill Belichick Goes Deep On Patriots’ 2021 Outlook As Season Finale Nears

Changes are on the horizon in Foxboro

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December 29, 2020

Bill Belichick confirmed what Jason McCourty predicted Monday night: The New England Patriots’ roster likely will look very different next season.

Speaking on WEEI’s “Ordway, Merloni & Fauria” one day after the Patriots’ 38-9 loss to the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium, Belichick said changes will be coming this offseason.

“There are a lot of circumstances that went into this year?s team, this year?s roster and so forth,” the Patriots coach said. “And I would say there are a lot of things that will be different next year relative to this year.”

New England fielded a more inexperienced roster than usual this season, which Belichick has attributed to the team’s salary cap constraints. A lack of talent caused problems on both sides of the ball, and the Patriots sit at 6-9 with one game remaining — their worst record since 2000.

The Patriots have numerous roster holes that need patching, most notably at quarterback, receiver, tight end, defensive line and linebacker. They should have ample resources to address these issues in 2021, as only three NFL teams are projected to enter the offseason with more cap space.

The Patriots also have 25 players set to hit unrestricted or restricted free agency in March, according to Spotrac, including quarterback Cam Newton, center David Andrews, left guard Joe Thuney, running backs James White and Rex Burkhead, cornerbacks J.C. Jackson (RFA) and Jason McCourty, defensive tackles Lawrence Guy and Adam Butler, defensive end Deatrich Wise and kicker Nick Folk.

McCourty said Monday the Patriots’ roster is “going to be a lot different” next season.

“(Our evaluation is) not limited to any one position or one person,” Belichick said on WEEI. “It?s every player on the practice squad, all the players on the roster, players that are on injured reserve, ultimately the opt-out players if they decide to opt back in, if you will. Internally, that whole evaluation process is one that we?ll do very thoroughly.

“And then there?s obviously an external evaluation that we?ll deal with, as well, whether that?s draft, trades, free agent signings or what have you. But the internal part will start immediately. It?s already started. We do it constantly. But we?ll do it more thoroughly and comprehensively once all the information?s in and go from there.”

COVID-19 makes planning for the future difficult at this stage, Belichick said, as it remains unclear what effects the ongoing pandemic will have on the 2021 season.

Belichick discussed this in detail when asked about the statuses of the eight Patriots players who opted out of the season due to coronavirus concerns (Dont’a Hightower, Patrick Chung, Marcus Cannon, Brandon Bolden, Matt LaCosse, Marqise Lee, Danny Vitale and Najee Toran).

“I haven’t talked to a lot of those guys,” Belichick said on WEEI. “I’m sure that when the season’s over, we’ll reconvene with them. I don’t know that any of us know a lot about what next month is going to look like or next year is going to look like, so it may be hard for — I’m not saying they have or haven’t made decisions, but it might be hard for them or, honestly, somebody else whose circumstances may have changed to make a decision on that until we all know more or have more information.

“I mean, the league will have to set up some kind of system next year. Whether it reverts back to what it was or whether it gets modified or whether it?s something similar to this year, there?s a lot of unanswered questions there. There?s a lot of unanswered questions about what the salary cap?s going to be next year and how that?s going to be treated. There have been very few teams re-sign players this year during the season like there normally are. We?ll see what happens at the end of the season when teams sign the futures, the reserve/future players off their practice squad and so forth. Maybe that?ll be the same as what it?s been historically, or maybe it won?t. I don?t know.

“So there?s really a lot of things up in the air in terms of team-building, roster-building and decision-making, (and) until those things get clarified or the policies and the cap and things like that get established, then there isn?t too much you can do without taking a big risk that if you happen to misjudge the way things are going to be set up or formulated, then you could put yourself not in an advantageous spot. So again, we?ll just have to wait and see how all those things play out and when they play out; I don?t know if there?s a timeframe on that, either.

“Normally, this time of year, you know what your salary cap is next year, you know how much space you?re going to have. You can maybe anticipate some guys you?re going to have to re-sign or maybe guys that aren?t going to be with you the following year and so forth, and then you can start to make some type of roster moves internally. There?s been very little of that during the seasons for the reasons I just mentioned, and we?ll see how much of it there is, let?s call it, in the first couple weeks after the regular season ends.

“But my guess is a lot of teams are in a holding pattern, kind of waiting for all of the things that I just talked about.”

The Patriots will close out their 2020 schedule this Sunday against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium.

Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images
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