Patriots Offseason Needs: Free Agency vs. The Draft

The Patriots have done poorly so far in free agency (a review on the first week here). They have lost Wes Welker, and added a corps of receivers who do not have the caliber to replace him. They have acquired Danny Amendola, and Donald Jones as new receivers, and have released Brandon Lloyd. The Patriots also have interest in Emanuel Sanders, a Pittsburg wide receiver who is now a restricted free agent. On the defensive side, the Patriots weren’t bad in their dealings. They acquired Adrian Wilson and signed back Aqib Talib, but let John Abraham and Dwight Freeney leave from a visit without a deal. What do the Patriots need to do in the draft to balance out their missing pieces in free agency?

Offense

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Losing Wes Welker was a big hit. The Patriots have “replaced” (I personally don’t think this is a full time replacement) him with Danny Amendola, who is extremely injury prone. Not a very good successor to one of the toughest receivers in the league. They also acquired Donald Jones, a 6-foot 208 lb receiver who certainly isn’t a star receiver. He is good in the supporting role, but we certainly don’t need another Brandon Lloyd. We also signed Leon Washington, a RB who takes kickoff returns and can be used in the passing game, leading to Danny Woodhead’s departure.

The strengths of the Patriot’s offense this offseason are simple. They have much depth at tight end (with Gronk and Hernandez accompanied by Jake Ballard, Hoo-man, and Daniel Fells), running back (with Stevan Ridley starting, Brandon Bolden probably being no. 2, Vereen taking over Woodhead’s role, and Demps and Washington on kickoffs), and obviously at quarterback (need I say anything about Tom Brady?). The weaknesses are also easy to see, if you look closely. The wide receiver position is looking horrid, with no receivers currently who have caught a pass in the 2012 season. Who knows how the offensive line will hold up either, with Sebastian Vollmer still a free agent and Donald Thomas being signed to the Colts. There isn’t a whole lot to worry about here, but if Marcus Cannon doesn’t come through with the starting job next year we could have a problem.

In the draft, the Patriots need to make up for their lack of skill at wide receiver. They can’t go for another short slot receiver (even if they have blazing Tavon Austin speed). The Pats need to draft a big and tall receiver who Brady will have no problem molding into another Randy Moss or Deion Branch in his prime. Players in the draft that fit this role include Cordarrelle Patterson, Keenan Allen, and DeAndre Hopkins. If the wide receiver position is solidified, the Patriots should have no problem being the number one offense in the league again.

Defense

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Not a lot of big hits were taken to the defense in free agency, but the defense wasn’t so great before the offseason anyways. The strengths of the defense are the defensive ends and the linebackers. The weaknesses are everywhere, mainly in the cornerback position (sure we signed back Talib and Arrignton, but Dennard’s going to jail, who’s gonna handle the other side?), and the safety position (Steve Gregory was average, and now Adrian Wilson’s here to replace him, but he doesn’t defend the pass very well), but also at the defensive tackle position (we need another strong DT to accompany Wilfork).

In the draft, there is a depth of cornerbacks, safeties, and defensive tackles. The Patriots should aim to select a cornerback in the first round, someone such as Xavier Rhodes (if he doesn’t get picked earlier), or Jonathan Banks. Why they shouldn’t go for a safety is that the best safety prospect for the Patriots as of yet is Matt Elam, who is strikingly similar to Patrick Chung in his play, and no one wants another Patrick Chung. We can bear with Kyle Love and Brandon Deadrick for another year, they weren’t horrible, but they just weren’t good.

-Preston

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