Retentions: OG Stephen Neal WR/CB/PR Troy Brown DB Randall Gay DL Richard Seymour DB Artrell Hawkins DB Chad Scott DB Guss Scott FB Heath Evans Analysis The key names here are Richard Seymour and Stephen Neal. Seymour was a free agent after the 2006-7 season, and many teams would've broken the bank to have him, because he's easily the best 3-4 defensive lineman in the league. The Pats locked him up through the 2009-10 season with a lucrative 3-year extension, which shows just how valuable of a presence he is. Seymour's sack numbers haven't been great the last couple of years, but he's nonetheless been a force as a pass rusher, and it was no coincidence that once he returned to full health after missing several games last season that the Pats' run defense once again became its former stingy self. As for Neal, one need only look at what he did in the game against Atlanta last season to see how valuable he is. Possibly the most athletic guard in the league, Neal has made a name for himself by developing [under the tutelage of Belichick and OL coach Dante Scarnecchia] into one of the premiere guards in the AFC, particularly on screens and stretch plays, which the Patriots run with great frequency, despite not having played any football in college. Teams like the Vikings, Bills, Texans and Cardinals showed great interest in him, but ultimately he decided to stick with the winner. Among the others, DBs Gay and Hawkins look to compete for playing time at both corner and safety after having contributed significantly in the last two seasons, with Chad and Guss Scott, both of whom missed most of last year, should also figure into that mix. Troy Brown brings a veteran presence and reliable hands to a young wide receiver corps, which he has since his pro bowl season in 2001, as well as incredible versatility. Evans will likely miss the final cut. Losses: DC Eric Mangini [Jets] OLB Willie McGinest [Browns] WR David Givens [Titans] K Adam Vinatieri [Colts] OT Tom Ashworth [Seahawks] TE Christian Fauria [Redskins] WR/PR Tim Dwight [Jets] LB Matt Chatham [Jets] CB Duane Starks [Raiders] CB Tyrone Poole [Raiders] LB Chad Brown Analysis A lot of people like to talk about the Pats going into a decline this season because of all these losses, but let's look at just how much they did lose. The one that hurts the most, in my opinion, is McGinest, because he leaves an unknown at the rush linebacker position, where he has provided consistent production over the last decade-plus. His 4-sack performance in the playoffs against Jacksonville clearly showed that he still has something left in the tank, despite his age, and he will be a boon to a young Cleveland defensive unit. David Givens' departure shocks noone, because it was widely believed, even before the offseason began, that he would seek #1 receiver money, which he was unlikely to get from the Patriots. Now, Givens had been a pretty reliable target for Brady since his emergence in the middle of the 2003 season, and because of that the team gave him a competitive offer to get him to stay, but there was no chance of him accumulating pro bowl numbers in an offense that spreads the ball around as the Patriots do, so he ultimately bolted for Tennessee, where he'll be the go-to guy for either a mediocre veteran or an unpolished rookie, rather than being a #2 receiver for the best QB in the league. Ultimately, that's his loss. Adam Vinatieri defecting to the arch-rival Colts did shock a lot of people, myself included. But he had more sentimental value than real value at this juncture. Yes, he was one of the most accurate kickers in the league, but he wasn't always consistent. In 2003, for instance, he only made 73.5% of field goals [only 9 of 16 from over 30 yards]. The next year, he bounced back with a remarkable 93.9%, but after that he settled at 80%, which is about his career average. Yes, his clutch performances are unmatched in league history, and there's no taking away from that, but what it really means is that the offense will have to work harder and make extra yardage, and perhaps go for it more often on 4th down [they made 13 of 17 attempts on 4th down last year, by the way]. I have faith that Stephen Gostowski will do a fine job in Vinatieri's place, and Gramatica will be an improvement over him in the kickoff department. Hiring Eric Mangini as their head coach was a huge gamble by the Jets. The guy did a decent, but unspectacular job with the Patriots defense last season, in his only year as defensive coordinator. Certainly not enough to warrant a promotion, in my opinion. Perhaps it will pay dividends, perhaps it won't, but there's no reason not to believe Dean Pees won't do a better job in that role, especially with so many players who were injured last season returning. The rest of the personnell the Pats lost consisted primarily of veterans who were past their prime, and special teamers/bit players. Tim Dwight did a fine job as a punt returner last year, but is a marginal receiver at best. Christian Fauria did a fine job as a starting tight end in 2002, but had since then dropped to third on the depth chart, and didn't have a single catch until week 10 last season. Matt Chatham was primarily used in the kicking game. Duane Starks was a complete bust last year, after the team had, lamentably, given up a 3rd round draft pick for him. Tyrone Poole was a key performer on the 2003 super bowl team, but had been injured for virtually the entire '04 and '05 seasons. Tom Ashworth was a guy who did a decent job as a starter on two super bowl champion lines, but had lost his starting job to Brandon Gorin last season. The fact that the team did not make an offer to keep him around is telling, though I believe he can and will be a solid starter for the Seahawks, just as he was here.