11. The Patriots have made over 10 free agent signings so far, I would expect them to make a few more before turning their full attention to the draft. They have added a group of players to the offense but have only made a handful of moves on defense. With the market thinning out, at least at the top tier, it will be tougher to find impact players on the open market. Here’s what I think the Patriots will address before pulling out of the FA market.
RB- With the loss of BJGE I believe the Patriots will sign a veteran running back to challenge and push Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen in training camp. The market for RB have been very slow to develop and there are a handful of quality veteran runners to be had.
DE/OLB- Like they did last year I fully expect the team to sign at least one more edge rusher and that’s not counting Andre Carter, who will be back next year as long as he’s healthy.
LB Depth- The team hasn’t addressed the position at all in free agency. The Patriots linebackers really struggled in coverage last year and I believe they will sign a coverage LB or two, who can play in nickel and dime sets.
DL Depth- The team has hosted Luis Castillo and Trevor Laws on visits, so they don’t appear done addressing the position in free agency.
S- With the draft being very thing at impact safeties, I believe the Patriots sign one more safety to provide depth throughout the year.
12. Based on the signings the team has already made and the moves that I anticipate they will make in the coming weeks, it will allow the Patriots to be very flexible in the draft. They have shored up almost every possible conceivable position on offense, WR, 3rd TE, OC, OG.
With that being said, I expect the majority of the picks will be spent on adding impact players on the defense. The Patriots are in a very unique and remarkable position. Not only have they already made their roster much deeper this off-season, they have the chance to add at least four or five players in the draft who could make an impact next year. With four picks in the first 62 (now that N.O forfeited their 2nd), it will be imperative that they hit on these picks.
It’s tough to see a scenario where they don’t address the front seven with at least two of those picks and the secondary with at least two of the picks in the first three rounds. Defensive line appears to be a focal point, especially finding a legit 3-4 DE, which are hard to find on the FA market.
There is great CB depth and with Belichick’s track record, I expect him to pick another one. Perhaps the most intriguing thing to watch will be how they address the pass rush and with whom. Do they pick a traditional OLB and let him rush the passer, or do the draft someone like Whitney Mercilus and convert him to OLB? I also won’t be the least bit surprised if the Patriots pick a WR in the first two rounds. I still think the team lacks the big, physical vertical and red zone WR. Adding a WR like that would give the Patriots a complete WR core.
Any way Belichick decides to use his picks, it figures to make an already good team better.
13. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t address the Tim Tebow to the Jets situation in here. Here are my two cents. It’s been 24 hours and I have really tried to figure out the move from a Jets perspective and I still can’t figure it out. They just got finished signing Mark Sanchez to a big extension and throwing all kinds of accolades his way.
Now they bring in Tim Tebow who has the biggest media and fan following of any player this league has ever seen. The minute Mark Sanchez throws his first interceptions or loses his first game, people will be calling for Tebow. Sanchez was already under enough pressure when they didn’t have a certified backup QB, now he is going to be looking over his shoulder and hearing the constant Tebow chants.
The circus and QB controversy we are about to see is going to be unlike any we have ever seen. On top of just acquiring Tebow they gave up a 4th and a 6th round pick. The Jets were an aging team last year and aren’t getting any younger with their free agent signings. This is a team that needed to use and hit on every pick they had. Instead, they gave it up for a backup QB, who is going to create a distraction and a circus. This wound is self inflicted by Mike Tannenbaum and Rex Ryan and it’s tough to see a scenario where this thing actually works out in the end.
14. There were a couple moves this week that can’t be considered sexy but, I feel like the resigning of Matthew Slater and Tracy White were two important ones for the Patriots. Slater has turned into one of the best special teams players in the league. He was elected to the Pro Bowl this season and was sure to garner a lot of interest on the market. Slater signed a 3 year deal to come back to New England and continue to be the special teams captain.
If Slater is the best special teamer on the team, then White is the second best. Both players are great on coverage units and consistently make big plays. Special teams often gets overlooked, but the Patriots have one of the best coverage units in the league.
The unit got even stronger with the signing of Marquice Cole from the New York Jets. This past season we all followed the Ross Ventrone shuttle, between the practice squad and active roster, the same thing with Malcolm Williams. Cole should put an end to the consistent game day activations. Cole was one of the Jets best special teamers, serving as gunner on kick off and punt coverage teams. Unlike Ventrone and Williams, Cole can actually play on defense if need be. Like with all these signings, even though it is a relatively small one, it’s an upgrade over last year.
That’s the consistent theme with the roster moves, they are making sure with each move they are upgrading one aspect of the team.
15. I’ve discussed all the free agent signings made by the Patriots in this article, but the Patriots also lost a key member of their team this week. BenJarvus Green-Ellis signed a three year contract with the Cincinnati Bengals that ended his tenure with the Patriots. BJGE worked his way up from UDFA to lead back and gave the Patriots everything they could have asked for.
While Green-Ellis was a solid player, I expect the RB position to be stronger next year because of the move. I believe that the combination of Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen is an upgrade over Green-Ellis. The two will have every opportunity to be the lead guy and both will get plenty of carries. Each player is much more explosive and dynamic than BJGE. The Patriots run game lacked game breaking ability last year and that will change.
Ridley would be considered the more powerful runner, while Vereen is considered the more dynamic guy. Combined, I think Patriot fans are in for a nice surprise and it will definitely be one of the position battles I will focus on in training camp.