New England Patriots

(Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images)

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

Bill Belichick knows it at this point: his roster-building was not up to snuff in 2020. So in 2021, armed with cap space and plenty of roster questions to answer, you can reasonably expect a major reckoning to come in the Patriots’ locker room.

Veteran cornerback Jason McCourty knows this as well as anyone in Foxborough. He’s been on enough losing teams to know that you don’t bring nearly the same roster back after a sub-.500 season. The Pats are going to be 7-9 at best, their first losing season in 20 years. Belichick no longer has a quarterback the caliber of Tom Brady to cover up for the roster’s flaws like he did many times.

He has no choice. He has to draft better, and it looks like he’s started to do that with the last two classes. He needs to pay competitive money for upper-tier free agents. And he needs to shake it up with what he already has. McCourty is approaching this offseason as if all those things will take place.

“No matter what, things change,” McCourty said after the Patriots’ loss to the Bills Monday night. “I think when you have a season like we did this year and you’re not going to the playoffs, you have embarrassing losses, this roster’s going to be a lot different. There’s a lot of guys that are in the locker room tonight that aren’t going to be in the locker room next year. Guys that are playing football right now that aren’t going to be playing football next year.

“For us, we have one more opportunity left together so whoever’s out there – young, old or indifferent, we’ve got to go out there and compete.”

The entire Patriots roster needs to heed the words of Jason McCourty: big changes are coming and no one should feel safe. (David Butler II-USA TODAY)

The entire Patriots roster needs to heed the words of Jason McCourty: big changes are coming and no one should feel safe. (David Butler II-USA TODAY)

The Patriots certainly need to add to the roster, independent of losing or trading anyone already here. But there are also players on the roster who, as McCourty said, may not play at all in 2021. In other cases, Belichick may simply feel it’s time to move on from a veteran guy. That’s where both McCourtys may be looking at themselves.

No one’s spot on this particular roster should be 100 percent safe, but some are far safer than others. Promising rookies like Kyle Dugger and Josh Uche and Michael Onwenu will almost certainly stick around. Punter Jake Bailey is a future All-Pro. You could look at guys like Chase Winovich, J.C. Jackson, Jakobi Meyers, and Damien Harris as solid building blocks for the next era.

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Everyone else? Get your asses in gear. Belichick is well aware that he needs a better roster next season, and unfortunately for the players, they are the ones who will be sacrificed to achieve that. They should heed McCourty’s words.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff or send him a nasty email at matthew.dolloff@bbgi.com.