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Patriots and Bill Belichick: What’s New?

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Prior to pushing the Bills in Week 17, the Patriots derailed the Broncos to bring a simmering Russell Wilson storyline to the surface. Reported to be heading toward a Bill Belichick divorce, the Patriots have a rather important decision to make in the coming days.

Robert Kraft is believed to want to avoid firing his six-time Super Bowl-winning head coach, leading to rampant trade speculation. A trade would complicate matters for all parties, placing Belichick in limbo in an age range in which no head coach has ever landed a job. The 71-year-old HC/de facto GM’s accomplishments obviously lap every other candidate on the 2024 carousel, but the topic of Belichick the GM will be a component in Pats talks with other teams — assuming those transpire.

[RELATED: Will Chargers Pursue Belichick In Trade?]

As of Sunday, however, Belichick and Kraft are not believed to have discussed plans beyond this season, per NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero, who report a scenario still exists in which the longtime HC stays with the Patriots for a 25th season.

Belichick, who will turn 72 in April, is not planning to retire. Eager to break Don Shula‘s record for career wins (347), Belichick is 14 behind the Hall of Famer. Because of the Pats’ 2023 struggles, the 2024 season does not represent a realistic window for that record to change hands. The ’25 season probably does, but Belichick’s status is certainly up in the air for that season. He is believed to be under contract through the ’24 season, but not much has emerged indicating which way this will go in recent days.

The prospect of Belichick ceding personnel power to another voice in New England’s building is worth discussing, as the Patriots do not have an upper-echelon roster. Draft mistakes have left the team, on offense in particular, with glaring deficiencies. Belichick’s defensive acumen has helped the Pats compensate for the losses of Matt Judon and Christian Gonzalez, but the team has made errors in assembling its roster since its Super Bowl LIII win. As for Belichick focusing on an HC-only role with the Pats, SI.com’s Albert Breer is not of the belief that will be a workable scenario for someone who has held full control during his second stint with the organization.

Kraft could be put to a seminal test soon, and the fast-paced nature of the HC carousel will be an issue for any team interested in Belichick as well. The Patriots are unlikely to fetch a first-round pick for Belichick. No team has ever hired a head coach older than 66, and the Belichick-as-GM element will undoubtedly be an issue for clubs interested in acquiring him as a head coach. If Belichick wants to continue as an NFL HC, he might need to agree to a high-level personnel exec either joining the Patriots or working alongside such a staffer in another city.

Linked on numerous occasions to playing a key role in the Jimmy Garoppolo trade six years ago, Kraft does not want a Belichick divorce to remind of Tom Brady‘s departure in free agency, per Rapoport and Pelissero, who note the longtime owner has consulted with many about how to proceed here. A firing is not viewed as likely.

Although Belichick is not believed to want to leave Foxborough, he would presumably want freedom to either seek a trade or become a coaching free agent if Kraft determines his time is up in New England. It remains to be seen how the owner will play this, and we would seem to be days away from finding out.

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