With the Patriots out of the playoffs for the first time since 2008, it's a perfect time for the organization to completely focus on free agency and the upcoming NFL Draft... except for one big sticking point.
They just lost their director of player personnel, with Nick Caserio headed to Houston to take over as Texans general manager.
Caserio is the latest -- but not the first -- member of the Patriots front office to depart in recent years, and for a team entering a crucial offseason of roster re-building, the timing isn't ideal, to say the least.
"I think that they've got an issue now," Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer said Tuesday on NBC Sports Boston's "Boston Sports Tonight." "They knew that they were in a position to lose Nick Caserio last year; he let his contract run out. They've had a major brain drain in that organization on the personnel side.
"We can go through all the reasons why, chapter and verse -- a lot of the guys didn't feel like they were being listened to in the college scouting process, a lot of guys had opportunities to move up and weren't being given those in the organization -- and so you've lost four guys over the last couple of years that are in director roles in other organizations."
So now that Caserio is gone, who fills that role in Foxboro? As Breer pointed out, replacing him with the next man up in the personnel department isn't even a simple next step.
Dave Ziegler, who was promoted to assistant director of player personnel last offseason after rising through the ranks in the New England front office, is interviewing for the Broncos' open GM job. Ziegler has a history with John Elway, having started his NFL career in the Broncos organization.
Breer suggested that the front office exodus could lead the Patriots to turn back to a familiar name.
"It's a lot of people to lose on one side of the organization in a short period of time," Breer added in the video, which you can watch above. "How are you going to fill those roles? How are you going to further empower scouts? How is Bill going to find guys that he trusts now? It makes you wonder if maybe he has to go back into the well and maybe turn to somebody like Scott Pioli, who he's got past experience with."
However it shakes out, Caserio's replacement will have to hit the ground running, with the all-important 2021 NFL Draft (in which the Patriots own the 15th overall pick) looming at the end of April.