While much has been made of the imminent demise of the Patriots' dynasty in recent years, team and league sources indicated that more members of the organization than ever before are open to new opportunities outside New England in 2019.
The Patriots have yet to reach the 10-win mark and face the prospect of missing out on a first-round bye, while quarterback Tom Brady has shown signs of slowing down, finally, at age 41. New England's talent level has been drained in recent years and with Brady looking like a mortal quarterback and Bill Belichick's future unknown, there is a growing sense around the league that there could be a significant exodus of coaching and front-office talent this offseason. There are serious concerns within the organization about how the Patriots will function once owner Robert Kraft, 77, eventually transfers day-to-day operations fully to son, Jonathan, and it is inevitable this team eventually has to rebuild and retool in a way it has avoided for the better part of two decades.
"This is the time to get out, and those guys know it," said one NFL executive who has ties to several members of the Patriots staff and is in regular contact with them. "There will be a lot of guys in there ready to see what else is out there."
Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has turned down numerous head coaching opportunities in the past, including Indianapolis in 2018, but will be willing to explore interviews with teams that seem to be a good fit, as previously reported. Patriots defensive coordinator Brian Flores interviewed with the Cardinals last year for their head-coaching vacancy, and he will have opportunities to do so again this January.
Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio has also turned down general manager job offers and interview requests in the past, but he too is open to discussing his future with interested teams this offseason, sources said. And the Patriots also have one of the more intriguing non-traditional front office members who other teams want to speak to about varying roles in their organization. Jack Easterby is a former team chaplain who has blossomed as New England's team development/character coach, spending the last five years cultivating relationships with the Patriots players and helping improve the team's overall culture. He's become an integral cog in the organization and a vital go-between for players and coaches; in a copy-cat league he is someone other clubs would like to tap into as well.
The Patriots already lost top receiver Josh Gordon indefinitely due to another suspension and tight end Rob Gronkowski is clearly further slowing down and has already ruminated on retirement in recent years. The roster has become short on playmakers on both sides of the ball, and Brady is no longer in MVP conversations (not that any 41-year old quarterback would be expected to be). It's setting up for potentially the most drama-filed offseason in recent team history, particularly if the team is unable to make what had become a near-annual trek to at least the AFC Championship Game.
In the past, some teams have been reluctant to wait all the way to the Super Bowl to hire top talent out of New England, and the Patriots have not bowed out prior to the AFC Championship game since 2010. Since 2001, New England has had only five seasons in which it did not reach the championship game.