The New England Patriots are riding high coming off their 42-14 trouncing of the Houston Texans Monday night. Bill Belichick and company look primed for another deep run into the playoffs this winter, but that does not mean they are a team without weaknesses.
Between now and next season, there will no doubt be a lot of turnover with the Patriots' 53-man roster. This leaves a lot of room for speculation as to who New England may covet in the off-season. Here are five players in college and the NFL, that the Patriots would be wise to chase for 2013.
Robert Woods has been one of the most decorated receivers in the NCAA over the past three seasons, but this season his stock has seen a drop. USC underachieved this year, but the main reason Woods has seen his stock dip is the ridiculous production of the receiver across from him, sophomore Marqise Lee.
Woods still has had a very impressive 2012 season for the Trojans, hauling in 73 balls for 813 yards and 11 scores.
With the Patriots clearly in a state of flux at the receiver position as Julian Edelman and Wes Welker are unrestricted free agents, there will be new faces in 2013. With Woods no longer being viewed by many as a top-ten type player in the draft, he becomes a player that the Patriots could have a real shot at picking up in the first two rounds.
Woods would be an explosive player to put opposite Brandon Lloyd next season and give Tom Brady a nice pair of wide-outs on the outside to utilize in what could be his last few years as a New England Patriot.
If it were up to Bill Belichick this would be done already. If there is any player he could add from any team in the league, there is a great chance he would select Ed Reed, perhaps the greatest safety ever to take the field in the NFL and one of the biggest ball-hawks.
Belichick's past praise for Reed is documented here by Michael Petraglia of WEEI.
Of course, yes, the odds are slim Reed would consider leaving Baltimore after his prolific 11 season run there, but it would not be a surprise for Belichick to make a sizable one year offer to Reed. Reed is the type of player Belichick looks for whenever he is looking at free safeties.
If he could squeeze one or two more good years out of Reed and improve the back end of his defense, Belichick would pay him almost anything for that.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a cornerback who like current Patriots' defensive back Devin McCourty, went to a Pro Bowl early in his career only to see his stock drop off afterwards. D.R.C. is an even better athlete than McCourty though, and is a talent that is intriguing.
He has a nose for the ball, with 16 interceptions in his first five seasons and has started all 13 games this season for the Eagles. He may command more money and years in free agency than the Patriots would want to give him, but they should at least make an offer, especially if they do not see their relationship with Aqib Talib going past 2012.
D.R.C. and Alfonzo Dennard could give the Patriots' a decent starting duo if Dennard continues his positive growth beyond this season.
Patriot fans have been clamoring for a player that can take the top of the defense ever since Randy Moss was traded to the Minnesota Vikings during the 2010 season. If there is one thing Mike Wallace is, it is a deep threat. However far Tom Brady can throw it, chances are Wallace is fast enough to go and get it.
He is set to be an unrestricted free agent this March if he can not come to an agreement on a long-term deal while still a restricted free agent this spring. The Steelers already divvied out $42.5 million to Antonio Brown, so it would not be a complete surprise if they let Wallace entertain other offers.
If the Patriots could manage to pull this off and retain Wes Welker, the aerial attack could be even scarier than 2007 when you mix in the other-worldy tight end combo of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
Dwight Freeney may be the greatest pass-rusher of the past decade, however in Chuck Pagano's new defensive system in Indianapolis, Freeney seems out of place. Freeney is now playing as an outside linebacker and has just 2.5 sacks in 11 starts.
When Freeney hits free agency this year, it would not a surprise for him to sign with someone who will allow him to get back to his comfortable spot of 4-3 defensive end. With the Patriots' featuring the 4-3 more than anything these days, it would not be a complete shock for the Bill Belichick to offer Freeney a little money to play for a contender for a couple of more years, even if New England is his former nemesis.
There is a long line of aging players Belichick has given a shot at the end to, and there is no reason not to kick the tires and try it out again with Freeney.