NFL Notebook: Patriots will have work to do with budget, key players in free agency

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As the Patriots have limped back toward the .500 mark, most of the attention has naturally been centered around how they get better in the offseason, when they will have somewhere in the ballpark of $78 million to spend.

In contrast, due to the anticipated reduction in cap space league-wide due to a large decline in revenue because of Covid, there are 13 teams (40 percent of the league) that will need to make moves just to get under the projected cap of $176 million.

So there is optimism that the Patriots can quickly return to being a Super Bowl contender with a few key moves thanks to that cap space. A quickie Patriots' wishlist:

Answer at QB
Starting TE
At least one WR
Defensive line help
Impactful edge player
Athletic linebacker

That's a lot. And it will be expensive. But the Patriots would certainly be a much better team, especially if some of their recent draft picks take a big leap after their first real NFL offseason (hopefully).

However, this offseason dream scenario for the Patriots overlooks some very key pieces to the puzzle:

a) Will Bill Belichick be able to spend all of that money after getting his budget from the Krafts?
b) Which of their own key free agents — Joe Thuney, David Andrews and Lawrence Guy being the biggest names — will they be able to retain and not have to replace?

A look at those key questions, starting with the league-wide cap space for each team after the 2020 rollover is factored in: