Patriots Off-season: Where Do We Go From Here?

Tom Brady is the elder statesmen of an otherwise youthful Patriots team. (Photo: US Presswire)

NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko

Now that the NFL Draft and the majority of the free agent signing period has passed, the Patriots 2013 roster is starting to take shape. A clearer picture of the roster is beginning to take shape, although this roster is far from a finished product. There is still almost three months until the start of camp and plenty of time to add more pieces to the roster.

Where can the Patriots afford to add more help? What positions still need some depth? What moves could the Patriots still make?

I examine what types of moves might be made between now and the start of training camp.

– As of today the Patriots have 89 players on their active roster. The roster limit during the off-season is 90, meaning the Patriots have one open roster spot yet to fill. I wouldn’t pay much attention to the roster numbers right now. If the Patriots have a player they want to add, the can easily facilitate the move by waiving one of the undrafted free agents to create roster spots. The final roster spots are always fluid. Movement can be expected with many of the UDFA between the end of rookie mini-camp and mini-camp. It’s not uncommon for the team to release a few guys after rookie mini-camp once the coaching staff sees what the player has to offer.

UPDATE: Since this morning the Patriots have released two UDFA’s; RB Quentin Hines and LB Ian Sluss. That brings the active roster number to 87, with 3 open spots to fill.

– I was unaware of the fact until Robert Kraft spoke about it earlier this week, but the Patriots will be returning 22 or their 24 starters from last season. Only WR Wes Welker and WR Brandon Lloyd won’t return from the 12-4 2012 Patriots team. It’s clear that the organization feels very good about the young core that is in place. The goal this off-season was to target specific areas of need and add depth to areas of the roster. That’s with one exception of course, as the wide receiver position has undergone a drastic rebuild.

– As of May 5th the Patriots have somewhere between 9.2 – 9.6 million dollars in cap space. That amount includes LeGarrette Blount’s paycut. Based on last year’s rookie contract numbers it’s expected that it will cost right around 3.7 million dollars to sign all of the draft picks this year. Taking those numbers into account it can be assumed that the Patriots have just about 6 million dollars in available cap room.

– The Patriots have some cap flexibility, but just because they have 9 million dollars in space, doesn’t mean they will use it. The Patriots  need to keep money available during the season in case injuries occur, if they want to resign players and save money to roll over to next year. With that said it’s still likely they will sign 1-2 more veteran free agents that will be on the team when the season starts against the Buffalo Bills. Most deals completed between now and the season will be minimum level, 1 year deals.

– Defensive End is one position where I think the Patriots will still add to the mix. The John Abraham situation has been talked about at length. As far as I know the Patriots offer is still outstanding to Abraham. They have played the market perfectly as Abraham still sits out on the free agent market. Abraham has made seven free agent visits with no deal and the longer he sits on the market, the more his price will drop. I have been told all along that his decision will be based on playing for a winner, playing time, and of course the contract.

-The Patriots are the only team to offer him a contract this off-season. As long as the Patriots draft acquisition of Jamie Collins doesn’t change their interest, then there is still a possibility that Abraham will end up in Foxboro. If a final deal is consummated, I’d expect it would be a 1 year deal for something between 1.5 to 2 million for they year.

– Despite losing Donald Thomas to the Colts in free agency, the Patriots have yet to add a veteran Guard during the off-season. I expected the Patriots to draft a Guard with one of their draft picks, but they decided to pass. After the draft they did sign Josh Kline out of Kent State and Chris McDonald out of Michigan State. The fact that the Patriots haven’t been proactive adding OG depth tells me they feel they have enough depth on the roster. That means Marcus Cannon likely makes the move to full-time OG, which most feel is his best position. Cannon offers much more upside than Dan Connnolly and I wouldn’t be shocked if he developed into the starter by season’s end. Don’t be surprised if the Patriots add a veteran Guard of two to the roster before the start of training camp.

– Many people have asked if the Patriots could still add a veteran WR to the roster before training camp. While I wouldn’t rule it out, I think it’s unlikely. Essentially, the Patriots brought in an entirely new WR corps and used two (relatively) high draft choices on the position. Amendola, Dobson, and Boyce are locks to be on the roster. Why take reps away from those guys to bring in a low level veteran WR? Those guys will need all the time they can get working with Brady in mini-camp, OTAs and training camp. The ultimate success of the 2013 team will be determined by the ability of the new WR corps to make an impact in big games.

– I actually think it’s more likely the Patriots bring in one more veteran tight end to compete during training camp. The injuries to Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernadez are in the forefront, but Jake Ballard is still recovering from his knee injury as well. Daniel Fells and Michael Hoomanawanui are still on the roster. The Patriots would like Hoo-man to take the next steps and develop into more of a receiving threat. But, if the team is uncomfortable with their depth they could target a TE with more proficient receiving skills, such as a Dallas Clark to provide camp depth.

– One thing to keep in mind when looking at this Patriots roster is just how young the team actually is. As I tweeted out last night, the Patriots are likely to roster a defense next year with the average age of 25.2. If you take Adrian Wilson out of the equation that average age drops to 24.9. On the other side of the ball the average age of the offense (besides Brady) is 25.6 years old. The game plan has been clear and that is to build up a young, talented defense, which can turn into the strength of the team in Brady’s waning years. It’s also important to keep in mind that by adding veteran players to the roster, it takes reps away from those young players who are the future of the team. Adding a veteran presence to the secondary was key this off-season and they fulfilled that need with Adrian Wilson.

– There are really only two other areas where I can see the Patriots targeting veteran help prior to the start of camp. One is running back, where just the limited of number of backs on the roster make it a position of need. There is no doubt who the main horses will be during the season, but limiting carries during camp and preseason games will be important. Linebacker is the other position where I can envision a body being added. The Patriots drafted Steve Beauharnais, who I expect to make the roster in a reserve role. That limits the need somewhat, but they have yet to resign Tracy White and this is a position which lacked depth all last year. I could see the Patriots adding a veteran LB to compete in camp, similar to what they did with Bobby Carpenter.

– Based on the make-up of the entire roster, it’s amazing how young the entire team has become. With so much young depth throughout, the camp battles are sure to be fascinating to watch. Like always, there will be heated battles and a few surprises along the way.

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25 Responses to “Patriots Off-season: Where Do We Go From Here?”

  1. td says:

    The fact of the matter in today’s NFL is that you need to build a team with young (cheaper) talent. The owners are driving down salary by not signing veterans on the decline to high contracts and with a flat cap number.

    Even Jerry Jones and Daniel Snyder are abiding by this rule, that and the huge penalties they got a couple of years ago.

    Soon, there will only be one or two guys getting huge contracts; a franchise QB and pass rusher.

  2. PatsDJ says:

    I want either Abraham or Freeney !!! This is a championship caliber team right now. I know some of the younger guys are going to have to step up, but i think that they will.
    The main reason we did not make it to the superbowl last year is we had no QB pressure vs Ravens. We cannot go through another year without a few sack specialists, such as Abraham and Freeney on this team.
    As for cutting a young guy for an older vet, it is about winning now !!! By the end of training camp there will be a few players, who were cut by other teams on this roster.
    Also, for the young guys with some talent, that is what the practice squad is for.

    • Liam says:

      Agree 115%

      We got the money and Abe is still out there so is freeney, Abraham is hungry for a ring and could help this team TON

      if we get him our passrush improves 110% as does our depth at de, our coverage and passrush at olb (ninkovich playing there) and our depth at mlb as now nink Collins or Abe can play at olb and have Hightower or mayo slide to mlb and get spikes rest

      If we lose in the playoffs due to Peyton having all day to throw to those wr’s and we all know all it woulda took is ponying up an extra mil for an allstar perennial double digit sacks guy that woulda fixed it that’s gonna suck bigtime

      Especially if it costs us a ring (AGAIN)

  3. psw says:

    Guy’s if Gronk, Hernandez, and Ballard are all healthy by opening day and the 2 rook recievers are getting the offense, then G-D have mercy on the leagues defensed because Bill and Tom won’t

  4. J H TARBORO says:

    Edleman is back in a boot on his injured foot and to miss OTA’s! this is an opportunity for a another young receiver.

    • Jeff M says:

      I get the early feeling that Moe may be the surprise UDFA who makes the roster and at Edelmans expense either from IR (with option to return) or just getting cut.

  5. J H TARBORO says:

    We should work with what we have!

  6. kevan says:

    very good article. i agree with you in regards to signing abraham or even freeney if we miss out. while some think it would be better to keep a young guy i have to disagree with that notion. pats are loaded with young talent at every position what they need is that veteran to help teach these kids some tricks of the trade. it could really help c. jones and whatever other young bucs make the team in their maturation process. like a. wilson will help in the secondary. its the same reason i think pats shoulda brought moss back instead of signing m. jenkins. he would be great to teach dobson and with both of them coming from marshall i think he would be open for a role like that. he gets alot of slack but he likes winning and respects brady and bb. tedy brushci touched on this when he said its frustrating when you get older because your mind is there you know all the right moves to make but your body wont follow cant follow anymore. those guys are perfect to be teachers to funnel that knowledge down. 5 seasons ago pats were getting old they have completely revamped the team with youth now they actually need those key veterans for some balance in my opinion. i think m. cannon will be a stud at guard looking foward to seeing how that works out. i dont think pats will add another tight end. with ballard fells hooman and the rookie undrafted guys thats good insurance in case of injury. i like the lbs too i think fletcher is solid and the 2 rookies will be good for special teams and versatily. rbs are good to go as well. pats are always making moves so nothing would surprise me but this team has been right there the last 2 seasons i think they have made the necessary tweaks to get over that hill top. they just need to sign a key vet or 2 and i say one of them is one of those ends. haha

  7. Russell Easterbrooks says:

    I would hate to see a young prospect get cut to make room for Abraham for a one year deal. BB is building for the future. Watch for T.J.Moe to make the roster, and be a surprise impact player, maybe out of the back field.

    • Bobby says:

      Youre stupid russ Moe aint a backfield player, hes edelman insurance

      • Russell Easterbrooks says:

        Do your reseach Bobby, Moe was a high shchool QB, running for 2029 yds in his senior year, and passing for 2557 yds. This is a backfield position.

        • Nuf Ced says:

          High school is a long way from the NFL…

          I played center on my HS basketball team… and I am six feet on a good day. I was the center because of the situation.

          The Fort Zumwalt West Jaguars aren’t exactly a national power house with a superpreps national rank 1613 so Moe may have just been the best fish in a small pond. There is more to research than just conjecturing from historical facts

    • cc says:

      Wide Out duties/potential, ST play, practice squad. ……o.k..

      But surprise backfield duties?

      Doesn’t say much for: Talib, Logan, Jones, Cole, Arrington, Dennard, Ebner, Harmon, McCourty, or Kanorriss and others now does it?

      • cc says:

        And I do like some of the dead weight casualties thus far, such as Fiammetta, Herman, Robertson & Williams. 2bad on Ebert.

      • AM says:

        I presume he means offensive backfield.

        • Russell Easterbrooks says:

          Thank you.

        • CC says:

          Definition of Offensive Backfield is “normaly” – 1 qb. 1 fb. And 1rb.
          So your saying UDFA (WR) MOE, is surprisingly instead gonna say alot about: Brady, Vereen, Ridley, Blount, and a select few others VS the “D”backfield……
          ………you were better off leaving MOE in your quasi Troy Brown role VS the “Offensive Backfield” role!

    • Russell Easterbrooks says:

      Do your reseach, T.J.Moe was a QB in high school (2008) and ran of 2,029 yds, and passed for 2,557 yds.

    • Liam says:

      Yeah god forbid ebner bequette Cunningham Gregory cole vega or one of the UDFA scrubs get cut for a guy that just had 10 sacks 6 ff’s last year and 32.5 sacks over the last three as the only passrusher on a contender

      I’d take Abraham if t meant cutting ALL of them, not just one of them. Lmao

      Thank god bellicheck doesn’t think like you do and has no problem bringing in impact veterans… Helped us win a ring in 2003 especially and will again this year

  8. AM says:

    Abraham is reportedly in extended talks with the Titans on a contract, so the Patriots may be missing out there. Dwight Freeney is not a bad fallback, although I think Abraham is the better fit.

    • Trev says:

      Honestly, I would almost rather go with the young players that we have right now than add Abraham. If he come in then we will need to cut a young guy like Francis to make room.

      • Liam says:

        First: no we don’t, we have an open roster spot, read the article.

        Second: who cares? Abraham is a beast and Francis sucks

        • Alex says:

          First: Obviously he was referring to when the roster gets cut down to 53, for this little thing called the regular season.

          Second: Francis has shown some potential, is cheap and young, while Abraham is old and struggles to perform against good teams.

      • td says:

        The only reasons Freeney and Abraham have not signed anywhere is $$$$. Freeney made $17million last year, Abraham around $5-7million. Teams must be offering near minimum money at this point, around $1.5-2 million. They will probably wait until the season starts and a contending teams top pass rusher gets injured and needs a pass rusher.

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