Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe and John Tomase of the Boston Herald both write that according to a source in the Patriots organization, Eric Mangini informed the team that he was taking the head coaching job of the New York Jets. Final details of the contract were being worked out, but the Patriots source indicated that Mangini would likely receive a four-year deal that could approach an average of $3 million per season. Tom Curran of the Providence Journal also offers a similar report.
Michael Felger of the Boston Herald writes that the Patriots had a rough year on many fronts in 2005 — scouting, coaching and playing, to name three — yet they still collected 10 wins. It easily could have been 11 with some effort in the season finale against Miami. That put the Pats just two games away from the 13-win territory that separates the first-round-bye teams (and the true Super Bowl contenders) from the pack. Two games. If Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli can improve their squad by just that much this spring, the Pats will be back in business. The last time Belichick and Pioli had a full offseason to prepare was following the 2002 campaign. Motivated monetarily (thanks to Robert Kraft) and committed on every front, they responded with a personnel crop that set the stage for future titles. Rosevelt Colvin, Rodney Harrison and Tyrone Poole were signed in free agency. Ty Warren, Eugene Wilson, Asante Samuel and Dan Koppen were picked up in the draft. Nose tackle Ted Washington came via trade.
Ron Borges of the Boston Globe writes that both the Steelers and Panthers seem well-suited to upset the home teams (Denver and Seattle) and earn a trip to Detroit and a spot in Super Bowl XL. That doesn't mean they will, because the Broncos have one of the most balanced offenses and opportunistic defenses in the league and Seattle showed Saturday that it is more than simply Shaun Alexander to the left and Shaun Alexander to the right, because when it was Shaun Alexander to the bench with wind chimes waffling through his mind, they still had enough to hold off the offenseless Redskins and win their first playoff game since 1984.
John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes that Patriots players returned from Denver in plenty of time to catch the Colts-Steelers game Sunday, and they reacted no differently than the rest of us when Pittsburgh pulled off the upset. "You think about it, and it makes you sick," linebacker Rosevelt Colvin said yesterday. "But there's nothing you can do about it." Colvin has nothing against the Steelers or Colts. What bothers him and his teammates is the obvious: Had the Patriots taken care of business against the Broncos Saturday, they'd be hosting this weekend's AFC Championship Game against the sixth-seeded Steelers. But they lost, 27-13, and instead face their longest offseason in three years.
The Boston Herald staff has put together an article chronicling the five high points of the 2005 Patriots season as well as a seperate article which chronicles the five low points of the Patriots season.
John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes that the Patriots will need to address holes at linebacker, running back, defensive back and possibly wide receiver this offseason. Some of their needs will be filled during the draft. They'll address the others through free agency. Tomase takes a look at some of the top free agents at their four positions of need.
Tom Curran of the Providence Journal offers his analyis of the Patriots 27-13 loss to the Denver Broncos. This was one of those games where one team -- the Patriots -- seemed to make all the plays but get none of the breaks. They outperformed Denver on both sides of the ball yet lost by 14 points.
Alan Greenberg of the Hartford Courant writes that the salary cap is expected to increase to $92 million from $85 million next season, but that still won't be enough to sign April draft choices and other teams' free agents without restructuring some contracts and releasing some players. The Patriots have 18 players who will be unrestricted free agents, but only receiver David Givens, offensive linemen Stephen Neal and Tom Ashworth, and kicker Adam Vinatieri are considered starters. Four-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman Richard Seymour, injured center Dan Koppen and Super Bowl XXXIX MVP Deion Branch will be entering the last year of their contracts and are ripe for extensions. "I see it working out," Seymour said Monday on Boston radio station WEEI. "I believe in what's fair. I don't want to be greedy. Any time you look at a deal, you have to look at both ends. When I go to sleep, I don't want to feel like I took advantage of anybody or anybody took advantage of me."
[Ian Clark](http://www.theunionleader.com/article.aspx?headline=Patriots Notebook: Back to the drawing board&articleId=ea72349e-7d15-4f8a-bc86-b993dbd0a78b) of the Union Leader writes that there was a lot to build on from this season for the New England Patriots. But ultimately, the final goal was not realized and that means that next season begins now. Head coach Bill Belichick and his staff will now undertake the long process of preparing for the 2006 campaign. On the to-do list will be self-scouting of current players on the roster, assessing free agents around the NFL and doing the prep work for April's college draft. "Some things will have to happen in different time frames," Belichick said Sunday. "It's really hard to predict how the first few days at the end of the season will go. So we'll just kind of take it as it comes, but it'll take a little while here just to kind of clean up things and get reorganized and make sure we have all of the information we need to try to get everything in place so we can analyze it. It's been a long year."
Michael Felger of the Boston Herald offers his Patriots report card. The Patriots' 27-13 defeat to the Broncos in the divisional playoffs did not signal the end of a championship era. If Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli can regain their personnel touch and add the right pieces this offseason, it will merely represent a blip. Even if Belichick and Pioli have a mediocre offseason, the Pats will remain the favorite in the AFC East.
Tom Curran of the Providence Journal offers his daily sports blog with Patriots notes and commentary.