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.