Breaking Down Areas Where the New England Patriots Must Upgrade This Offseason
How can the New England Patriots improve in 2013?
That's a question that Bill Belichick will be asking himself a lot this offseason. With the chance at another Super Bowl title now behind them, it's time to start improving the roster.
Here's a breakdown of areas where the boys in blue must upgrade this offseason.
Interior Pass Rush
Vince Wilfork is great, but New England needs another playmaker inside of its defensive front, particularly someone that can get after the quarterback.
Wouldn't it be sweet if the Pats could sign the defensive-tackle version of Cameron Wake from the Canadian Football League?
Oh wait! That already happened!
OK, I'm getting ahead of myself, but the Patriots did just sign CFL All-Star defensive tackle Armond Armstead (per ESPNBoston's Mike Reiss and Mike Rodak).
The 6'5", 300-pound monster may be the answer to the Patriots' interior pass rush problems.
With only five picks in the 2013 NFL draft, this could be a crucial signing down the road.
ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter pointed out earlier this month that "In the 6-foot-5, 300-pound Armstead, an NFL team will be getting the equivalent of a high draft pick months before the April draft."
The Patriots may still bring in another athletic defensive tackle through free agency or the draft, but they may have already found their guy in Armstead.
The Patriots averaged a woeful 21.2 yards per kick return in 2012—good for 25th in the league.
The good news is the answer to this problem is already on the roster.
His name is Jeff Demps and he just so happens to be an Olympic silver medalist with downright world-class speed.
All the Patriots have to do is get this guy up to speed (pun intended) and give him the job.
Badda bing, badda boom.
Even if the Pats retain Wes Welker and/or Julian Edelman this offseason (both are free agents), they'll still need to upgrade their receiving corps.
Specifically, the Pats need an outside receiver with both size and speed.
Brandon Lloyd had a solid season with the Pats earning his dough outside the numbers, but he never really took over a game the way we've seen Torrey Smith or A.J. Green do.
With Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Welker (hopefully) drawing all the coverage to the middle of the field, Tom Brady needs a guy that will consistently win one-on-one battles on the outside.
It would behoove the Patriots to invest a high draft pick on a guy like Terrance Williams or sign a free agent like Dwayne Bowe this offseason.
With Alfonzo Dennard looking like the best cornerback Belichick has drafted since Asante Samuel, the other cornerback spot will only need an upgrade if the Patriots don't re-sign Aqib Talib.
The Patriots pass defense improved drastically when Talib was on the field and fell right back down to dreadful when he wasn't (see: AFC Championship Game after Talib left the game).
If the Pats can't get a deal done with Talib, they'll have to upgrade through the draft or free agency, but Talib seems like the best choice as he's already proven how much he can help the defense.
Devin McCourty looks like the Patriots' free safety of the future after playing at a high level there in 2012.
The former cornerback has the range and ball skills to be effective in the back end of New England's defense for years to come.
While fellow safety Steve Gregory played well alongside McCourty down the stretch, the Pats need a hard-nosed big-hitting safety to better complement McCourty's roaming style of play.
They need a guy that will make receivers think twice before running across the middle of the field.
Quite frankly, they need a safety who's a little scary.
The most cost-effective way to get a guy like this is through the draft, where violent safeties Kenny Vaccaro or Matt Elam could be available at the end of the first round.
Maybe Tavon Wilson can develop into a top-tier strong safety in his sophomore year, but Belichick should take a long, hard look at these two promising young talents.
James is a New England Patriots featured columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @JamesDiMaio for more news and updates.
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