Rob Gronkowski’s health looms large over the Patriots’ chances at returning to the Super Bowl (Elise Amendola/Associated Press)

New England Patriots

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Last season’s record: 12-4

Key players released: FB Spencer Larsen, OL Kyle Hix, WR Brandon Lloyd, DT Kyle Love

Key free agents lost: G Donald Thomas, S Patrick Chung, WR Wes Welker, RB Danny Woodhead

Key free agents re-signed: CB Aqib Talib, LB Niko Koutouvides, T Sebastian Vollmer, WR Julian Edelman, CB Kyle Arrington, CB Marquice Cole

Key free agents added: WR Danny Amendola, RB Leon Washington, WR Donald Jones, S Adrian Wilson, T Will Svitek, WR Michael Jenkins, DT Tommy Kelly, WR Lavelle Hawkins, QB Tim Tebow

Key players traded: RB Jeff Demps

Key trade additions: RB LeGarrette Blount


Rd. 2 (No. 52 overall)… Jamie Collins, LB, Southern Miss

2 (59)… Aaron Dobson, WR, Marshall

3 (83)… Logan Ryan, CB, Rutgers

3 (91)… Duron Harmon, S, Rutgers

4 (102)… Josh Boyce, WR, Texas Christian

7 (226)… Michael Buchanan, DE, Illinois

7 (235)… Steve Beauharnais, LB, Rutgers

Analysis: Two of the loudest moves of the NFL’s offseason involved the Patriots, with Wes Welker leaving New England and Tim Tebow arriving.

The breakdown in negotiations with Welker that led to the highly productive wide receiver ending up in Denver resulted in the curious scene of Patriots owner Robert Kraft standing in front of a group of reporters at the annual league meeting in March in Phoenix, explaining the team’s reasoning behind the move. The Patriots almost never discuss such decisions publicly. But Kraft did so, saying the Patriots wanted Welker back but Welker’s representatives miscalculated the market for him. Kraft said that day that he had spoken to quarterback Tom Brady about Welker’s exit but added: “I don’t answer to Tom Brady.”

The Patriots bolstered Brady’s wide receiver corps by signing Danny Amendola as a free agent. The Patriots rarely have been caught being sentimental in their player moves during Coach Bill Belichick’s tenure, and the Amendola-for-Welker switch is another example of that. The Patriots have gotten younger at that spot, and now they must hope that Amendola can be productive enough to keep the offense functioning smoothly.

Belichick was typically unforthcoming about his plans for Tebow’s role with the team after the celebrated quarterback’s recent arrival. Tebow, at least in the past, has stuck steadfastly to the notion that he is in NFL quarterback and a quarterback only. That’s even with so many people in and around the league now seemingly convinced that isn’t the case and his only useful role on a team would be as a utility player lining up sometimes at tight end, perhaps sometimes at running back and maybe every so often at quarterback.  New England is a relatively good landing spot for Tebow because there is no chance that a quarterback controversy will arise, barring an injury to Brady. If Tebow indeed is willing and able to help a team in a multi-faceted role, he could end up being an asset.

The Patriots have retooled yet again as they pursue what would be a fourth Super Bowl title for Belichick and Brady. The addition of safety Adrian Wilson after he was released by the Arizona Cardinals gives the Patriots another reliable veteran. The re-signings of cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Kyle Arrington, tackle Sebastian Vollmer and wide receiver Julian Edelman could be significant. But much could hinge on the availability of tight end Rob Gronkowski, whose playing status for the beginning of the season is unclear after a series of surgeries on his forearm and back. He is a difference-making player who creates matchup nightmares for defenses, and if he’s not in the lineup, the Patriots’ chances of reaching another Super Bowl could be diminished significantly.

Why Redskins fans should care: The Redskins tried but failed to sign Talib before he re-signed with the Patriots. Will that decision make a difference in either team’s season?

Conversation starter: Will the Patriots win another Super Bowl with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady?

Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag.

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