I not-so-low-key love the offseason for pretty much any sport. If I had any brains in the statistics department, I’d probably chase a general manager job for the Red Sox or Bruins or whatever. Instead, I’m a moron who can’t do math, so I’m here left to throw my opinion out there.
The Patriots were a lot closer to the Super Bowl than people give them credit for, I think. They were a missed extra point away, or a few coaching decisions away from a date with Carolina in San Francisco. Despite this, the Pats were not a perfect team. In fact, they were far from it. These are the Patriots’ biggest needs in my opinion.
The Pats need talent on the o-line, and they needed it yesterday. As long as Tom Brady is the quarterback, priorities one through five are the big guys in front of him. If you believe that Brady is God Himself, then think of the o-line as his Army of Angels (I’m feeling very sacrilegious on this beautiful first Sunday of Lent), The entire line took their bumps and bruises- guys like Nate Solder, Bryan Stork, and Sebastian Vollmer among others all missed time.
First things first, let go of Marcus Cannon. Get rid of him. Sayonara Marcus! He’s useless, utterly useless (watch #61 in each gif).
I think it’s a pretty good free agent class for offensive lineman. The bigger names are pretty well-known and well-established, like Seattle’s Russell Okung and Cincinnati’s Andre Smith. Both are expected to command top-dollar contracts, and that’s fine and good. In my eyes, the Patriots need depth guys, not studs. Solder and Vollmer are both solid tackles when healthy- the problems started when they were dogged with injuries.
Taking this thinking into account, the Patriots have a lot of options. They could retain Ryan Wendell, who despite his own injuries this year, has proven to be both productive and versatile, which is always a need. If New England wants to go a different route, then they could look into Buffalo’s Richie Incognito (guard), Atlanta’s Jake Long (tackle) or Seattle’s JR Sweezy (guard, and best name in football). The point is to beef up the line however necessary, because plugging guys into random spots eventually caught up to the Patriots in Denver last year.
Let me get my opinion clear… as long as Tom Brady is wearing red, white and blue, the Patriots will be a pass-first offense. That’s completely fine by me. But you can’t be such a pass-first offense that you get to be one-dimensional, and that’s exactly what the Patriots’ offense looked like at the end of the year. It’s impossible to win games in January and February if you don’t have a respectable threat out of the backfield. Carolina and Denver both had guys that needed to be accounted for. So did the Patriots and Seahawks last year.
The sexiest name on the market is Matt Forte, the former Chicago Bear. Forte is 30, which is pretty much the peak for running backs; it will only go downhill for him from here. He’s been a model of consistency. You can pretty much pencil the dude in for 1,000+ rushing yards and 500+ receiving yards. He would’ve had over 1,000 yards again this year if he didn’t lose 3 games to injury. A player on some bad teams, he apparently really wants to go to a winner (who doesn’t?). His age, though, suggests that he’s still going to look for his last big payday, as he should. Newsflash people, the Patriots aren’t the only team that is close to winning a Super Bowl- Denver, Green Bay, Seattle, Dallas (yes, Dallas), and so on all have the need for a back. I’d love Forte in New England, and I’m not being pessimistic. I’m just being realistic.
If I could choose anyone not named Matt Forte, it would be Chris Ivory. The 27-year-old back is a really good runner, but was played out of a job with the Jets by Bilal Powell, who is more versatile. Ivory can’t catch passes or block, but that’s not why he would be signed to the Patriots. If used correctly, he can carry a team on his back. Signing him would make the Patriots better while making the Jets worse. Other than Ivory, the Patriots could retain LeGarrette Blount. I think of Blount like I did Milan Lucic for the Bruins- if he’s moving, he’s unstoppable, but you know you won’t get a full season of production from him due to inconsistency.
I also wouldn’t be opposed to either Denver’s Ronnie Hillman, Dallas’ Lance Dunbar, or drafting Derrick Henry in the 2nd round or later.
I love Dion Lewis and James White, but neither are scary when carrying the ball out of the backfield. Their ability as dynamic receivers earn them some stock, but it also proves my point that the Patriots don’t need a guy who can catch, too. That’s why I think, for the right price, Chris Ivory is the way to go.
This is a tough one, mainly because I think that the Patriots are in really good shape defensively next season. They have to resign their core guys, like Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Malcolm Butler and Chandler Jones, but if/when they do, they’ve got good pieces already. As it sits now, I think the only thing the Pats are missing is a #2 cornerback.
Butler proved this year that he’s got some real talent and he’s a guy to keep around for the future. I think Logan Ryan is good in the right scenario, but matching up against the opposing #2 receiver on the outside isn’t that scenario. He’s like Kyle Arrington reincarnated- he’s really good in the slot, but just not consistent enough or big enough for the outside. They don’t have to go after Josh Norman, Leon Hall or Janoris Jenkins. I’m content with the Patriots going and getting Terrence Newman (old, but still effective enough. Also a good mentor), Morris Claiborne (never really reached his potential, but if he does, look out), Adam ‘Pacman’ Jones (love his physical style of play and bulldog mentality, just not when he gets penalized for it) or old friend Brandon Browner.
Of course, this is implying for the right price. A second cornerback is a need, but not one that’s dire enough to really break the bank.
That’s pretty much it in my eyes. I mean, they could use a receiver that stretches the field, since Brandon LaFell proved that he can’t do anything right this season. A backup tight end wouldn’t be bad either, since Scott Chandler genuinely likes to drop passes. If the Pats address these three needs, they’ll win the Super Bowl with ease next year. If they don’t? Well, they still probably will, because they’re the Patriots.
All information obtained from spotrac.com.
Cover Photo courtesy of boston.com.
GIFs courtesy of SB Nation