With the 2013 season in our rearview mirror, the Patriots have quickly moved forward to preparing for next year, as was evidenced by Bill Belichick taking in practice Tuesday in Mobile, Ala., the site of the Senior Bowl.
But before we move full bore onto 2014, let's use 2013 as a springboard to identify areas of need for the Patriots, while also reviewing some pertinent highlights of last season.
We'll look at the roster by position, starting with the quarterbacks.
2013 status: Starter
2013 highlights: Played every offensive snap for the first time in his career, throwing for 4,343 yards and 25 touchdowns. Endured a slow start to the season before a late tear that included 16 touchdown passes in a six-game stretch. Elected to Pro Bowl, though he has passed on playing.
Current contract runs through: 2017 season
2013 status: Backup
2013 highlights: Did not log a single snap this season.
Current contract runs through: 2014 season
Positional need: For the third time in four seasons, the Patriots carried just two quarterbacks on the active roster. That allows the team flexibility on the back end, while also serving as a sign of confidence in Mallett, a developing young player. While Mallett has reportedly generated interest as a trade chip in previous offseasons, our sense is this: The Patriots are always open for business (if the price is right), but aren't actively shopping Mallett. Given that he is due to be a free agent next offseason, the Patriots may look to add an arm to the pipeline, be it in the draft or otherwise. Brady continues to play at an extremely high level and though he'll be 37 by the start of next season, it's not time to ready a new starter. With a contract that runs for four more seasons, Brady has good football left in the tank.