5 intriguing New England Patriots storylines that will define 2022 offseason

New England Patriots. (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)
New England Patriots. (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images) /
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New England Patriots
New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

No. 4: Two New England Patriots veterans nearing the end

The tail end of the New England Patriots 2021 NFL season and that Wild Card butt-kicking at the hands of Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills exposed a defense that was slow and aging at some key positions, particularly linebacker and safety.

It should be no coincidence that those positions are led by two veteran players who have been staples in the Patriots’ defense over the past decade.

While both Devin McCourty and Dont’a Hightower have been the face of Belichick’s defensive scheme, it was obviously that the end is nearing for both players who are on the other side of 30.

So, will they retire or will Belichick cut ties with either or both veterans who are facing expired contracts.  Either way, the Patriots would be losing some leadership, but they do have enough younger players in place to step up.

At the safety position, Adrian Phillips and Kyle Dugger appear primed to step up if McCourty’s days are over and at linebacker, Belichick will have to hope younger and quicker players like Josh Uche, Chase Winovich, Cameron McGrone, Anfernee Jennings, Ronnie Perkins and Ja’Whaun Bentley are ready to make some leaps.

Whatever happens with Hightower and McCourty, Belichick should focus his attention to the defensive side of the ball through the draft and free agency because the team needs to get faster and deeper at both those positions and build around the core of J.C. Jackson, Duggar, Christian Barmore and Matt Judon.

In all, the New England Patriots without Dont’a Hightower and Devin McCourty will tug at the heart of fans, but both of those players have perhaps played beyond their prime.