|Steve Dykes/ Getty Images|
How will Patriots fans cope with this sobering reality (besides alcohol)? A tunnel vision focus on making next year's team championship worthy certainly helps. With that in mind, here's a look at some of the top free agents playing in the Super Bowl and whether they might be a realistic fit for the Patriots 2014 plans, finishing with the NFC representative Seattle Seahawks.
Michael Bennett- DE: Bennett went relatively unnoticed when he hit the market last season, ultimately signing a one-year, $5 million "prove it" deal with Seahawks. After an excellent season with the Seahawks, contributing 8.5 sacks and strong play against the run to the league's best defense, the 28 year old Bennett figures to cash in with a big long term contract this offseason. The Pats likely missed any opportunity to sign Bennett when they passed on him last year, as their lack of cap space makes any offer for him highly unlikely.
Golden Tate- WR: At 25 and coming off of a 64 catch, 898 yard, 5 touchdown season, Tate looks like one of the best options on the wide receiver market. There's a lot to like about Tate, who has a knack for making contested catches despite his 5'10", 202 pound frame and explosive run after the catch ability. However, it seems unlikely that the Patriots would offer devote any significant portion of their limited cap space to a #2 receiver with some inconsistency issues in his career. If the Patriots do spend money on their receivers, it will likely be on keeping Julian Edelman around, although that could change if they decide to open up more space by cutting ties with Danny Amendola.
Walter Thurmond- CB: A fourth round pick in 2010, Thurmond developed into an excellent slot corner and occasional starter in Pete Carroll's press-man heavy scheme. Thurmond is almost certain to leave Seattle, having lost his starting job to Byron Maxwell after missing four games due to suspension earlier this season. Thurmond's age and solid play as a starter make him an attractive free agent (PFF has him as their 12th highest graded corner on the free agent market), but there are some red flags on him as well. Thurmond has a suspension on his record, a lengthy history of injuries that caused him to lose 24 games between 2011-2012, and all of his success has come playing on a stacked defense surrounded by all-star teammates. As a result, Thurmond will probably only be an option if Aqib Talib walks, as Alfonzo Dennard, Logan Ryan and Kyle Arrington appear to be firmly entrenched on this roster for the next couple of years.
Tony McDaniel- DT: Keep an eye on the underrated McDaniel this Super Bowl. This 8 year veteran was a solid rotational lineman in Miami, where he played from 2009-2012, and he solidified his reputation with an excellent 2013 season in Seattle. Starting a career high 15 games (his previous career high was 3) this year, McDaniel contributed 53 tackles and 2 sacks to Seattle's stout defensive front. It was enough to give him PFF's third highest grade amongst free agent defensive tackles, with his +16.1 grade ranking him only behind Randy Starks and Jason Hatcher.
With Tommy Kelly and Vince Wilfork both over 32 and coming back from serious injuries, the Patriots will surely want to bring in some depth to help limit their snap counts. Adding a productive rotational talent like McDaniel to a core of Wilfork, Kelly and Sealver Siliga would enable the Patriots to have a four man rotation, easing the workload on their older stars without sacrificing much in performance on the field. Despite his solid 2013 season, McDaniel shouldn't be too expensive should the Pats decide to invest a little in their D-line depth.
Other Seattle free agents include QB Tavaris Jackson, FB Michael Robinson, WR Arceto Clark, WR Bryan Walters, TE Kellen Davis, TE Anthony McCoy, OL Breno Giacomini, OL Paul McQuistan, OL Jason Spitz, DT Chris Baker, DT Clinton McDonald, LB O'Brien Schofield, S Chris Maragos, K Steven Hauschka
While these are the only current free agents coming from Seattle, the Seahawks are team to watch in terms of player movement. Seattle has been able to load up on talent partly because they've gotten superstar production out of several players on rookie contracts: Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Bobby Wagner. Seattle will have to start ponying up the cash to keep those guys, likely starting this offseason with Sherman, who is entering a contract year. As more of Seattle's salary cap goes towards extensions for their young core, less of that money will be available to retain the rest of their talent. Doug Baldwin, Cliff Avril, Chris Clemons, Malcolm Smith and K.J. Wright all join Sherman and Thomas as Seahawks entering a contract year in 2014, with Sherman and Thomas both in line for monster contracts. Most of those guys stand to become available in the future as a result of the upcoming cap squeeze, with receiver Sidney Rice also a possible cap casualty this offseason.
For a complete list of the Call to Arms series, click here
Let us know in the comment section what you think of these players joining the Pats!