The New England Patriots were only a play or two away from winning Super Bowl XLVI, yet they head into free agency/draft season with some significant needs on their roster.
Wes Welker, New England's best receiver by far, was just franchised by the squad. Other Patriots free agents include BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Mark Anderson and Andre Carter. However, the Pats won't only be looking to retain their own players.
This season's free-agent class is deep and talented.
Among players becoming available at the start of free agency on March 13 are pass-rushing master Mario Williams, explosive wide receiver Vincent Jackson and one of the NFL's premier guards, Carl Nicks. For New England fans, names like Brandon Lloyd, Reggie Wayne and Mike Wallace have been thrown around a lot in the past few weeks.
With a loaded free-agent class, it would be surprising to see Bill Belichick stand pat. A few big moves in free agency could propel the Patriots to another Super Bowl appearance next season.
Here are five players that should be considered necessities for New England come free agency.
*All ages in player pages are ages at the start of 2012 season.
**Please note that although safety is a need for New England in free agency, with Dashon Goldson, Tyvon Branch and Michael Griffin all receiving the franchise tag, no high-caliber safeties remain.