Repeating in the NFL has become the most difficult of assignments. No team has come closer than the Seattle Seahawks, who were about a yard away from shoving the ball in the endzone during the final seconds of Super Bowl XLIX and lifting the Vince Lombardi Trophy once again.Thanks to a superb play delivered by a previously unheralded rookie defensive back in Malcolm Butler, the New England Patriots did not let that happen.
The feeling here is that the Pats are facing one of the most critical moments they will face if they are going to have any chance of winning a second consecutive title next February.
While many have failed when it comes to figuring out Bill Belichick's personnel strategy over the years, he simply cannot let Darrelle Revis get away when the new league year starts March 10 at 4 p.m. Eastern Time.
Belichick knows personnel better than anyone in the league, and he certainly knows it better than any sportswriter, no matter how many years of NFL coverage have gone into the bank account (34 years here).
But here's one thing that is certain. Revis is the best cover man in the NFL, and the Patriots excelled at pass coverage throughout the majority of the 2014 season and were exceptional in that area in the postseason.
Compounding the issue for the Patriots is the impending free-agent status of safety Devin McCourty. While he did not get the same kind of kudos as safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor of the Seahawks, McCourty is a smart, active, instinctive, and tough player who was outstanding during the Patriots' most crucial games.
This isn't saying the Pats can't defend their championship robustly without McCourty, but he is a vital piece who would be difficult to replace.
But the main issue is Revis's status. Technically, he is under contract and will get paid $20 million during the 2015 season. However, New England is simply not going to pay that amount to their stellar cover man.
Instead, they would like to work a multi-year contract extension that is in line with Seattle's Richard Sherman, Arizona's Patrick Peterson, and Cleveland's Joe Haden. Sherman has a four-year, $56 million contract, while Peterson has a five-year, $70 million deal.
There appears to be little doubt that the Patriots would match what either Peterson or Sherman is making in order to keep Revis in the fold, but that is not going to be enough.
Revis understands that the Patriots don't want to pay $20 million a year for a cornerback, even if he is the best in the league. However, Revis is not going to settle for $14 million a year.
His previous contract with the Tampa Bay Bucs paid him $16 million, and he will want a deal that pays him more than that. He played a huge role in helping the Pats earn a championship, and he wants a raise.
So, if the Patriots really want to keep him, they have to come up with a minimum of $16.5 million just to sit down at the table with him. That's just an opener, because Revis is not going to make it easy for the Pats after settling for a $12 million payday last year. Revis is likely to insist on a deal in the $17-18 million range.
Belichick can scheme all he wants and try to figure out how his defense can get by without Revis and still have a chance to get back to the Super Bowl.
We're not talking about another winning season and a divisional title. We're talking bye week, home playoff victory and AFC title.
Unless Belichick can find a way to give the Pats a 1985 Bears type of pass rush, he needs the best cover man in the business, and he would also be well-served to bring back McCourty as well.
Without Revis, Joe Flacco and the Ravens will be able to eviscerate the New England secondary, and a healthy Peyton Manning just might be able to do the same thing.
Pro football's resident genius has no reason to over-complicate the situation. Belichick simply can't do without Revis if he wants his team to defend its championship.
He will have to pay the man, and he almost certainly has to do it by March 9 or Revis may just fly away.
More on AOL
Sports PotW for 3/2
Patriots' Super Bowl 50 chances may hinge on Darrelle Revis decision
OSAKA, JAPAN - FEBRUARY 28: General view of action during day two of the ISU World Junior Short Track Speed Skating Championships at Osaka Pool on February 28, 2015 in Osaka, Japan. (Photo by Tom Dulat - ISU/ISU via Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BC - MARCH 1: Eddie Lack #31 of the Vancouver Canucks makes a shootout save on T.J. Oshie #74 of the St. Louis Blues during their NHL game at Rogers Arena March 1, 2015 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Vancouver won 6-5 in a shootout. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 28: (Top) Ronda Rousey grapples with Cat Zingano in their UFC women's bantamweight championship bout during the UFC 184 event at Staples Center on February 28, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 01: Romelu Lukaku of Everton jumps a tackle from Francis Coquelin of Arsenal during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Everton at Emirates Stadium on March 1, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
PARK CITY, UT - MARCH 01: Yiwei Zhang of China competes during the FIS Snowboard World Cup 2015 Men's Snowboard Halfpipe Final during the U.S. Grand Prix at Park City Mountain on March 1, 2015 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 24: Kris Versteeg #23 of the Chicago Blackhawks collides into goalie Roberto Luongo #1 of the Florida Panthers as Aleksander Barkov #16 skates in from the side during the NHL game at the United Center on February 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)
FALUN, SWEDEN - FEBRUARY 28: (FRANCE OUT) Jason Lamy Chappuis of France takes 1st place during the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships Men's Nordic Combined Team Sprint on February 28, 2015 in Falun, Sweden. (Photo by Stanko Gruden/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - FEBRUARY 23: Ryan Kesler #17 of the Anaheim Ducks falls to the ice during the game against the Detroit Red Wings on February 23, 2015 at Honda Center in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)
DORTMUND, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 28: Henrikh Mkhitaryan of Borussia Dortmund scores his teams second goal next to Atsuto Uchida of Schalke 04 during hte Bundesliga match between Borussia Dortmund and FC Schalke 04 at Signal Iduna Park on February 28, 2015 in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images)
ACAPULCO, MEXICO - FEBRUARY 23: Risa Ozaki of Japan serves during a female single match between Risa Ozaki and Louisa Chirico of USA as part of Telcel Mexican Open 2015 at Mextenis Stadium on February 23, 2015 in Acapulco, Mexico. (Photo by Hector Vivas/LatinContent/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 01: DeAndre Jordan #6 of the Los Angeles Clippers is fouled by Joakim Noah #13 of the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on March 1, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 28: Joe Tomane of the Brumbies breaks through a tackle during the round three Super Rugby match between the Rebels and the Brumbies at AAMI Park on February 28, 2015 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 25: DeAndre Jordan #6 of the Los Angeles Clippers dives for the basketball in front of teammate Chris Paul #3 during their game against the Houston Rockets at the Toyota Center on February 25, 2015 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
MOENCHENGLADBACH, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 26: Tony Jantschke of Borussia Moenchengladbach and Vitolo of Sevilla battle for the ball during the UEFA Europa League Round of 32 second leg match between Borussia Moenchengladbach and FC Sevilla at Borussia-Park on February 26, 2015 in Moenchengladbach, Germany. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MARCH 01: (THE SUN OUT, THE SUN ON SUNDAY OUT) Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool celebrates with his team mates after his goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester City at Anfield on March 1, 2015 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 01: Manager Jose Mourinho of Chelsea lies on the pitch as Chelsea celebrate with the trophy during the Capital One Cup Final match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley Stadium on March 1, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)