New England Patriots: 2014 next big thing AFC

The next big thing: Patriots

January, 22, 2014
Jan 22
12:00
PM ET
The first focus for the Patriots in free agency will be their own key players who are set to hit the market.

The list is plentiful, and it starts with cornerback Aqib Talib. Talib's work as a shutdown cover man was as good as the Patriots have seen in Bill Belichick's 14 years as coach, which is why he is viewed as the centerpiece to the team's offseason approach.

If Talib isn't back, the Patriots are back to what we saw in the AFC Championship game ... and the drop-off was notable.

Meanwhile, receiver Julian Edelman and running back LeGarrette Blount are two others the club would likely hope to retain, with center Ryan Wendell also in that mix.

In the draft, the Patriots have their full complement of picks -- 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 6 and 7. The fifth-rounder went to Philadelphia in the Isaac Sopoaga trade this year, with the additional sixth coming from the Eagles in that same deal.

The other aspect to consider is the fluid nature of salary-cap space. One important offseason storyline will be if the team gets salary-cap relief from Aaron Hernandez's contract, which would play a major role in building the team.

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