Examining New England’s Biggest Remaining Needs

John Abraham would likely provide New England with additional edge pressure in 2013. (Photo: US Presswire)

NEPD Editor: Matthew Jones

Through free agency, the New England Patriots have attempted to strengthen some of last season’s weaknesses, but much more remains to be done if the Patriots wish to field a championship team in 2013. Read on for a look at the top five needs remaining, as well as some insight into how New England may opt to address them this offseason.

WIDE RECEIVER:

Despite adding Danny Amendola and Donald Jones to inject some youth and talent into their group of wide receivers, New England could still use two or three more receivers. Amendola should take over for Wes Welker in the slot, while Jones is ideally a fourth wide receiver. Releasing Brandon Lloyd created another void at the position, and without many free-agent options available, the Patriots will likely need to invest one or two draft picks in the position, which is a concern considering their lack of available draft choices. New England has been widely expected to sign an offer sheet for Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, which may be wise considering their inability to draft effectively at the position, although the depth of the wide receiver class seems more appealing. Depending on the financial commitment, Sanders would be an intriguing option, though. Re-signing Julian Edelman as a backup to Danny Amendola would be logical as well.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE:

Signing CFL star Armond Armstead was a smart move, as the Patriots were able to secure a second or third-round talent at the defensive tackle spot; however, they should not be complacent with their current group of interior linemen. Vince Wilfork is a stud at nose tackle, but Kyle Love may be better suited to a reserve role moving forwards; his ability to clog the middle is valuable, but he doesn’t create much pressure in the passing game. Brandon Deaderick and Jermaine Cunningham were on the field for far too many snaps last season, revealing the need for additional bodies. The Patriots attempted to sign Desmond Bryant before he ultimately ended up in Cleveland, so this may be a need which is addressed through free agency. New England should be on the lookout for a cheap situational pass rusher to add to their collection; players such as Sedrick Ellis, Sen’Derrick Marks, or Amobi Okoye may be willing to sign one-year, non-guaranteed deals.

DEFENSIVE END:

Like defensive tackle, this is a spot which New England appears poised to address through free agency; the most likely signing is John Abraham, but it’s strange that the Patriots have been unable to reach an agreement thus far. While Rob Ninkovich was surprisingly effective in 2012, he’s hardly an impact player and is entering the final year of his contract. If Abraham opts to sign elsewhere, the Patriots may be interested in a player such as Dwight Freeney, perhaps the only other logical fit available. If Jake Bequette can provide anything in 2013, it’d be a blessing, as players like Jermaine Cunningham and Justin Francis were too visible last season. There are some intriguing defensive ends available in the draft, but New England may be better served by picking up a veteran considering their lack of draft picks. Armond Armstead could also be an option if Bill Belichick decides to implement more two-gap responsibilities at the left end spot.

LINEBACKER:

Dane Fletcher’s return should improve New England’s depth at linebacker, but they could still use additional players, particularly on the outside. Rob Ninkovich makes sense as a backup strongside linebacker, but he is also needed at left end. Ideally, the Patriots would find a player who can cover tight ends while setting a hard edge in run support, although they shouldn’t commit much money to the position, as they have three effective starters in Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, and Dont’a Hightower. There are still a few potential bargains on the market, so this is something that will likely have to be addressed in free agency, or not at all. Brandon Spikes’ expiring contract could also factor into New England’s decision-making here.

CORNERBACK:

Aqib Talib is on a one-year deal, so the Patriots should still be on the lookout for a long-term answer at the left cornerback spot. With Alfonzo Dennard potentially facing a league-mandated suspension, the right cornerback spot could be an issue to begin the 2012 season as well. Fortunately, re-signing Kyle Arrington should solidify the slot. Ras-I Dowling shouldn’t impact New England’s plans too much, as he has been unable to stay healthy over the course of his career. This is probably one of the most obvious areas in which the Patriots could use an upgrade, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them allocate multiple draft picks in an effort to build depth at the position. Bill Belichick is notoriously influenced by workout numbers here, so the most likely targets are players who performed well in the 40-yard dash and three-cone drill in Indianapolis.

Tags: 2013 NFL Draft, 2013 NFL Free Agency, New England Patriots

17 Responses to “Examining New England’s Biggest Remaining Needs”

  1. JV says:

    Abraham on his way to Denver….

  2. Jeff M says:

    Given our issue of so few picks I see Bill trading back to the 2nd from 29 to get some mid round picks.

  3. qwerty says:

    Patriots are loaded at DE. They don’t need anyone.

    Patriots need to draft another Safety in secondary so they have option of moving McCourty back to CB. They really need 3 solid CB’s along with Arrington who should be used only at slot and sparingly anyplace else.

    Finding a replacement for Vollmer is a priority. They need more depth at tackle.

    Since Dennard wasn’t a member of the NFL at the time of the event, can they really take a action against him. Dennard should receive a probation.

    • cc says:

      Agreed w/all except the being loaded at the DE Possition…. they may be loaded, but not it’s loaded with backup’s & situational not proper tiers.

    • JV says:

      The Patriots are loaded at DE? Then why have the Pats struggled getting consistant pressure on the QB the past several years? Jones started off great then fell off. Niko may be the most inconsistant pass rusher the Pats have…after that who do they have? No one. Cunningham has done squat.

      Im sure Abraham and Freeny were brought in for a reason.

  4. Vt Bill says:

    I think they can’t afford to NOT sign Vollmer. They can pick up developmental players late in the draft, and they do have a few guys currently, and I’d bet they are better situated with Vollmer than most teams.
    Talking about 3 quality starters at LB makes me who who’s counting. Spikes is a 2 down backer at best, and we really need more speed and cover talent at LB. I’d like to spend a 3rd rd pick on someone like Jamie Collins, Jelani Jenkins or Sio Moore who can all move really well. If the coaching staff thinks marcus Fortson and Armstead are real talents then they should be OK at DL, but Wilfork needs a replacement soon.
    If Dennard goers to jail, we’ll needa CB at #1, otherwise I think they should stand pat and take a Big tackle at #1. #2 should be a WR,and then the 3rd pick should be the above LB’s. Increasing the pass rush is the best thuing you can do for your corners.

  5. Larry says:

    Do you live on Earth…………………..The Pats have three draft picks….. I don’t count 7th rd picks……………They have spent most of their cap money………………They can’t fill all these holes you think they have……..They need another CB a WR and a pass rusher that’s all……. 1 – 2 – 3…………….

    • cc says:

      Well said Larry.
      Draft well with a 1-2-3 & DO NOT TRADE BACK FOR SUB PAR DEVELOPMENTAL PERSONAL!
      Use 1 next year pick and add a very much needed OT……

  6. Russell Easterbrooks says:

    LB worries me, if one of the starting three goes down with an injury, we are thin. A guy under the radar, until the combine was Cornelius Washington. He played out of position at Georgia, so at 6’4″ 265 he ran a 4.55 40, and did 36 reps at the bench ! BB type LB for sure. Looks like a 3d round pick late.

  7. Bobthebuilder says:

    2 problems with this article.
    1. He Patriots have had just as much trouble signing WRs as drafting them
    2. Alfonzo Dennard won’t be suspended or fined because the incident happened when he was part of the NCAA, not the NFL

    • Billy C. says:

      The pats success in adding WRs that weren’t drafted hasn’t been nearly as troubling as you’ve indicated. Although they were trades Bill did a great job in getting Welker and Moss. As for Gaffney and Stallworth they were adequate players for small sums of money. I’ll forget the other two you’re sure to mention but the end result hasn’t been as terrible as the drafting of the WRs.

      • MaineMan says:

        Actually, the Pats track record with vet WRs they’ve brought in is almost exactly the same as with draftees. During the BB Era, they’ve brought in (as FAs or in trades) 19 veteran WRs who had legitimately accomplished prior careers. Only 7 of those have made significant contributions and the other twelve pretty much face-planted. And about a third of those 19 were former 1st or 2nd rounders.

        The Pats have drafted 9 WRs – no 1sts, 3 2nds, 2 3rds and 4 late-rounders. Of those, two were significant contributors and another two at least contributed more than the dozen veterans who failed.

        IOW, percentage-wise, it’s almost an exact wash. And the draft picks were way cheaper than the vets.

  8. Russell Easterbrooks says:

    The biggest need right now is at ROT. If Vollmer does not sign, the Patriots will need to draft a OT. Likely names could be Reid Fragel, Luke Marquardt,or Brennon Williams. My guess is they sign Vollmer, and draft an OG for the future, instead of an OT.

    • MatthewJones says:

      That’s a good point, although to me it seems as if the Patriots will be able to reach an agreement with Vollmer. Basically, it’s not a need to me until Vollmer actually leaves; right now it doesn’t even seem as though he’s drawing interest elsewhere. If he does leave, I’d like to see what Marcus Cannon offers; he was generally considered a second-round talent heading into that draft, and has had two years to develop under Dante Scarnecchia. Will Svitek and Markus Zusevics should be adequate swing reserves.

      • Russell Easterbrooks says:

        I agree Matthew, I think they will sign Vollmer, and am very suprised they have not. Marus Cannon is a good player, but I think a better fit at OG. Svitek looks like a great value pick-up, and Zusevics should be an improving player for the future. We a thin at OG, and there are great looking prospects in the draft. I think BB would like Barrett Jones.

        • cc says:

          Draft an OT, Cannon can take over at Guard all day long & thus provide versatility within both spots.
          Regardless if Vollmer last thru injury issues after signing or not.
          OT not Guard.






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