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Will the Patriots move from Brady after playoff defeat?
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Will the Patriots move from Brady after playoff defeat?

The New England Patriots suffered a defeat in the wildcard round of the NFL playoffs for the first time since the 2009 season, crashing out at the hands of the Tennessee Titans in a 20-13 loss at Gillette Stadium. Tom Brady and company were held scoreless in the second half as the Titans’ defense made the plays when it mattered the most, while the running ability of Derrick Henry took time off the clock, amassing 180 yards on the ground to defy Bill Belichick’s men. For the first time since the 2015 season, New England will not represent the AFC Conference in the Super Bowl. It could prompt a change in the guard in the AFC, with Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes on the rise. The Patriots have major decisions facing the organization, with an aging roster and a number of players out of contract – including Brady for the first time in his career being able to work his way to free agency. At the age of 42, Belichick and owner Robert Kraft must now decide whether to move on from the legendary quarterback to begin a rebuild operation that will shake up the NFL and the AFC for the first time in 20 years. Changing of the guard The Patriots lost five matches in the 2019 season – all to teams in the AFC, including four sides that are playing in the Divisional Round at the time of writing along with a stunner to the Miami Dolphins. The Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans all triumphed over Brady and New England in the regular season, while the Titans were able to do it in the playoffs. Three of those sides have young quarterbacks that are mobile and can seemingly make every throw in the book, while the Titans’ running game powered them past the Patriots. Brady will be 43 at the start of next season, and although he remains a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback, there have been limitations with the Patriots’ offense over the last two seasons even if they have maintained their consistency with an eleventh consecutive division title this season. The Ravens have become the leading contenders for the Super Bowl this season at odds of +187.50 with Betway by drastically altering the style of their offense. Given that offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels will likely leave for a head-coaching position, it could be the right time for the Patriots to move away from Brady’s style, especially given his close relationship with McDaniels. That’s without mentioning that New England will have to pay Brady a significant sum to remain with the franchise – it’s money on the salary cap that they can ill afford with changes needed elsewhere on the roster. One of the key factors that the Ravens, Chiefs and Texans have enjoyed over the last few seasons is that their quarterbacks are relatively cheap, allowing them to make moves elsewhere on the roster. Brady has already suggested that he is not interested in leaving money on the table, which may be enough to force the hand of Belichick and Kraft to end the dynasty. The future? Jarrett Stidham is Brady’s backup and the heir apparent for the six-time Super Bowl champion. He was selected in the fourth round of the 2019 Draft and did enough to supplant veteran Brian Hoyer as the understudy. Belichick has already proven twice that he has an eye for a quarterback – first with Brady and then with Jimmy Garoppolo, who has turned the San Francisco 49ers into contenders. Debate rages whether Belichick would have been happy to keep Garoppolo over Brady in the 2017 campaign when he had to trade away the junior man with his rookie contract running down. Belichick could be in the position to select another quality player with the 23rd overall pick in the 2020 Draft or further down in the order. Brady showed that you don’t have to be a high selection to become the greatest player at his position in the history of the game. Tua Tagovailoa or Jake Fromm could be available to the Patriots given the former’s injury concerns and the latter’s issues with consistency at Georgia. Belichick has already drafted two players from the Bulldogs recently in Isaiah Wynn and Sony Michel and could strike again to take Fromm, easing the transition to life after Brady, although it’s a job that no player will relish. Even then there is work ahead for New England. Their receiving corps is in need of work with Julian Edelman showing wear and tear at the age of 34 despite his continued excellence. N’Keal Harry had a baptism of fire in his first NFL season as he struggled with injuries as well as trying to learn the Patriots’ complex offense. Along with departing coaches and players, Belichick has to turn over the roster that has aged under his watch. He has not enjoyed the best of drafts in recent years and his failures have caught up with him. The 2020 Draft needs to be a hit or else he could be exposed without his Hall of Fame quarterback to dig him out of trouble.

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