Even though the New England Patriots missed the postseason for the first time in more than a decade, they still managed to make an appearance in Sunday’s AFC championship showdown between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Buffalo Bills.
As the final seconds ticked off the game clock, Tony Romo discussed the future of the AFC. And after bringing up Josh Allen’s team, he quickly pivoted to the topic of Bill Belichick and a Patriots squad that will surely look much different next season. In fact, the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback delivered a bold prediction about what to expect from New England in 2021.
And if Romo’s words prove true, the rest of the AFC is in for a rude awakening.
New England missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008
As Tom Brady gets ready to take on Patrick Mahomes in Super Bowl 55, Bill Belichick is in the unfamiliar position of having extra time on his hands. After all, the Patriots missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
Of course, he deserves a large chunk of the blame for New England’s disappointing 7-9 campaign.
Instead of locking up Brady to a long-term deal years ago, the Patriots’ top decision maker let the greatest quarterback of all time become a free agent last spring. To make matters worse, Belichick went the cheap route to find a replacement for TB12.
Ultimately, taking a one-year flyer on Cam Newton proved to be a massive mistake.
The former No. 1 pick failed to capitalize on a career-saving opportunity. Sure, he didn’t have great weapons. And he didn’t have a full offseason to learn the playbook. But no matter how you slice it, Newton simply didn’t come close to living up to the Superman persona he established in Carolina.
However, the quarterback position was only part of the problem.
A glaring lack of NFL-caliber receivers and tight ends continued to derail an offense that used to rank as one of the best in the NFL.
In addition, New England’s front seven got exposed as the season wore on. Clearly, the Patriots need better linebackers and defensive linemen in order to keep up with the league’s faster, more explosive offenses.
Tony Romo delivers bold prediction about Bill Belichick and the Patriots in the final seconds of the AFC championship
The AFC championship featured plenty of star power. From the two marquee quarterbacks to electrifying skill players like Tyreek Hill, Stefon Diggs, and Travis Kelce, it was clear that both the Chiefs and the Bills possess plenty of blue-chip talent.
On the other hand, the Patriots’ lack of impact players played a major role in their failure to qualify for the postseason.
But according to Tony Romo, the rest of the AFC better get ready for a bounce-back campaign from Bill Belichick’s team. As the conference title game came to a close, the former Cowboys star delivered a bold prediction that highlights the position of strength from which the Patriots will operate this offseason.
“The AFC is going to be loaded,” Romo said. “New England is going to get back in this thing. I have a feeling, Belichick, with that much salary cap, they’ll find a way to come back in this thing.”
Given how ineffective they looked on both sides of the ball at different stages of the season, the Patriots obviously have a ton of work to do to live up to Romo’s prediction. This is a team that needs more than just a new quarterback in order to climb back to the top of the AFC East.
However, as the star CBS analyst astutely pointed out, Belichick does have a major advantage over most NFL teams heading into the most important offseason in franchise history: salary cap space.
Expect plenty of new faces in Foxborough next season
Expected to have around $60 million in cap space, New England can easily afford to fix some of its major holes. Then again, that will require Bill Belichick to deviate from his normal method of conducting business.
During the course of his tenure with the Patriots, he has rarely shelled out big money in free agency. Other than Adalius Thomas (a failed experiment) and Stephon Gilmore (a home-run signing), Belichick has typically gone for second- or third-tier veterans who can play specific roles in New England.
Could that change this offseason?
Based on their lack of talent at critical positions, it might be time for Belichick to open up his mind (and wallet) and start pursuing players who can do more than just set the edge against the run or play special teams. The Patriots desperately need premier playmakers at quarterback, defensive end, wide receiver, and tight end. They need multiple linebackers…and that’s assuming Dont’a Hightower returns after opting-out of the season.
Luckily for Belichick, he has plenty of financial flexibility to improve his team in the span of a single offseason.
And if watching his former quarterback make it to the Super Bowl without him has given him any extra motivation, expect Bill Belichick to do everything possible to make Tony Romo’s prediction come true.