Time To Look Ahead For New England Patriots Fans

Chris RadezSenior Writer IJanuary 7, 2009

I've had my head in the sand for long enough. Besides, it wasn't a bad season. I shouldn't even be upset, given the circumstances.

Still, 11-5 with no playoffs is a tough pill to swallow.

However, next season looms and there are many things to think about with this team. I'm still convinced that the Patriots are one of the best teams in the AFC, and with another good draft they will be younger and faster.

First and foremost... what to do with Matt Cassel?

There are reports swirling about the status of Tom Brady's knee. Most reports are saying that Brady's rehab is well behind schedule, despite the fact that the Boston Globe was quick to dismiss such reports.

I think the media just likes the other story better.

Either way, it's a situation that needs to be monitored, as Cassel's future is dependant on it. After starting only one game in college (as a tight end), Matt Cassel finds himself in a position to be one of the most coveted free agents of the 2009 off-season.

The Patriots won't let him go without getting something in return. There have been plenty of reports that they're ready to use the franchise tag on Cassel, in order to make sure the Patriots do not come away empty handed.

The only problem is, this would make Cassel a higher paid quarterback than Tom Brady. I'm not saying he doesn't deserve to get paid, but to have him and Brady on the payroll would be ridiculous.

To make a long story short, Matt Cassel will not be a Patriot by week seven of the 2009 season. There are plenty of teams that will be looking to have the pleasure of plugging him into a new system, including the Vikings, Lions, Bears, Jets, Jaguars, Chiefs, and Seahawks.

The only question is, when will this trade occur? If Brady's knee is looking to hold him out of the season opener by the time draft day rolls around, Matt will not have the luxury of training camp/pre-season with his new team. He will need to hang out in New England and be ready to start, if need be.

On the other hand, if Tom looks like he may be ready to go in week one... we could be looking at a huge draft day trade, in which case the Chiefs and Jets (assuming the Lions go after Sam Bradford) would have decent leverage, should they choose to pursue the 6'4" 230lb Cassel.

Another glaring hole that needs to be filled is the Pats' defensive backfield. It continues to be a plug 'n' play defense in New England, and it will continue to be until they land a serious playmaker on defense.

Tedy Bruschi is said to be interested in returning, and will likely play an important roll in grooming the younger linebackers such as DROY Jerod Mayo, Shawn Crable and Gary Guyton.

Scott Pioli is expected to depart from the organization due to a heavy interest in his services by several teams.

The Patriots currently hold the 24th selection in the 2009 draft, and my assumption is that they will use this pick on either a DB or a OL. D.J. Moore out of Vanderbilt, who has announced he will enter the NFL Draft, would be a good pick here if he's available.

I'm kinda rambling now. This was an attempt to get back into writing here at Bleacher Report, and I'll do my best to bring Patriots news to you before someone else does as the offseason continues.

Chris Radez