For the first time in his 20-year career, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will turn free agent when the NFL league year officially begins in March. In the last offseason, Brady signed a two-year contract, but the additional two years were avoidable. Also, the contract indicates that the Patriots cannot use the franchise tag on Brady, meaning there’s no stopping the 42-year-old quarterback from hitting the free-agent market unless New England signs him to a deal between now and March. In his latest pronouncement about Brady’s future on Sunday, head coach Bill Belichick said this is not the time to discuss his long-time quarterback’s future in New England in the aftermath of their bitter 20-13 loss to the Tennessee Titans in Saturday’s Wild Card Game.

While he has the utmost respect for Brady, whom he called as an iconic figure in the Patriots organization, Belichick said the time to discuss the quarterback's future with the organization will come at a proper moment. Also, Belichick said he’s not only focused on Brady but on the other 18 members of the Patriots who will hit the free-agent market in March, per Zach Cox of New England Sports Network (NESN). In addition, the veteran head coach said he’s not the only one making the decision regarding contracts. “They’re made collectively, and there’s a lot of time, thought, effort and communication that goes into that. Now is not the time,” Belichick said in his press conference, a transcript of which was posted on the Patriots official website.

Guard, wideout among those who will hit the free-agent market

Cox said that aside from Brady, the other members of the offense who will hit the free-agent market include guard Joe Thuney, center Ted Karras, wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, tight end Ben Watson, offensive tackle Marshall Newhouse and guard James Ferentz and Jermaine Eluemunor.

Thuney could be a hot commodity considering that he earned a spot in the All-Pro second team while Karras showed his potential after filling in for starter David Andrews, who was out for the season due to blood clots. Dorsett came up big on several occasions for the Patriots as a third option for Brady but he was limited to just three catches in the final five games.

Watson, for his part, will probably retire for the second time.

Patriots’ defense might lose key players

The Patriots defense, which played phenomenal last season, will lose several key players to the free-agent market. Among those who will turn free agent are safety Devin McCourty, linebackers Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Elandon Roberts, defensive tackles Danny Shelton and Adam Butler, edge rusher Shilique Calhoun and defensive end Keionta Davis. Recently, Van Noy expressed his intention to return to the Patriots, but he also wants to receive a huge deal. On special teams, veteran Matthew Slater will hit the free-agent market, but he is expected to be retained by the Patriots. Aside from his veteran savvy on the field, Slater is known as a respected locker room leader.

Aside from Slater, the other special teamers who will turn free agent include Nate Ebner and kicker Nick Folk.

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