Who will be Tom Brady's slew of receivers when 2013 kicks off?
Will Belichick fix his pass defense to remain as AFC title contenders?
Do the Pats have any moves up their sleeve?
As long as Brady is under center, the Pats will definitely present a strong offense. But it always helps to have an established chemistry with veteran targets.
Here's what's happening in New England leading into the 2013-14 NFL year.
The Wes Welker Front
The fact the Dolphins are willing to do more than in the past is a reason one club source last week mentioned his affinity for signing Wes Welker in addition to Mike Wallace.
But, the source said, if Welker cannot return to New England with a good contract, he’d love nothing more than to stick it to the Patriots for not retaining him. And the Dolphins might welcome the chance to help Welker with that goal.
One of the spots that could be happening is slot receiver, where Wes Welker (widely believed to be staying in New England), Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman and lesser others clog the market.
One thing is certain: Wherever Welker ends up playing in 2013, that team is getting a consistently dependable receiver who is the best at accumulating yards after the catch.
He's obviously a competitive advantage for the Patriots, because Brady has so many other targets that no defense can afford to double cover Welker. Although he's primarily an underneath receiver, to split zones and defeat one-on-one, Welker has the quickness and acceleration to make plays downfield against Cover 1 and 2.
Even if put in a limited role, Welker's presence and impact forces a defense to adjust its coverage and blitz packages accordingly.
Mike Wallace As A Deep Threat?
Welker aside, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald tweeted New England's potential pursuit of Mike Wallace last week:
Armando Salguero @ArmandoSalguero
Take this for what it is worth (I see it as solid). Agent just told me he hears Patriots have some interest in Mike Wallace.2013-3-9 06:40:26
Wallace would be excellent for New England, because his ability to press the secondary would open up everything underneath even more. Brady already has two dependable tight ends in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez to make plays after the catch.
Wallace's impact would simply take New England to an unforeseen level. Few receivers can stretch a defense like Wallace, and Brady still possesses the arm strength and accuracy to launch downfield.
New England showed a stronger commitment to the running game last year and showed that it can establish a balanced offensive attack. With Wallace in the fold, Brady and Co. will only be more dangerous and unpredictable.
The Pass Defense
Ranking No. 29 in pass defense last season cost New England in the playoffs. As expected, New England has some considerations floating around regarding the secondary.
Some players, Arrington in particular, would like to see the Patriots keep the heart of the group together. Speaking with the free agent cornerback Saturday night, Arrington said he was hopeful of re-signing.
The other involves Sean Smith of the Dolphins. Via Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports, New England was among a few teams last week with the hopes of landing Smith:
Jason Cole @JasonColeBR
Leading candidates for CB Sean Smith, as if this moment, appear to be Tampa Bay, Arizona and Pats. But things are fluid.2013-3-9 20:38:49
Managing to keep Arrington and land Smith would be an ideal situation. Arrington's dynamics let him contribute on the outside or in nickel/dime situations. Plus he could also line up at safety, when needed, because of his knack for finding the ball—seven picks in 2011.
As for Smith, he has shown the capability of isolating in man coverage and shielding decently well in zone. Given that he defended 12 passes, forced three fumbles and made 59 tackles last season, Smith was consistent.
Include his size and youth, and Smith playing for New England would be a nice get for Belichick.
The Pats would then have the playmaking talent and personnel depth to feature a variety of looks, which is to their advantage. In short, Smith's potential would coincide well with that of Arrington.
Potentially Retaining Donte Stallworth
Jeff Howe @jeffphowe
The Patriots have shown interest in re-signing Donte Stallworth, per source, but that would be on the back burner for a bit longer.2013-3-9 15:42:55
This is an interesting possibility, as Stallworth turns 33 years old next season and has not impacted anywhere since 2007 (New England). He does bring veteran experience to the position, but it's a slim chance that Stallworth returns to his pre-2008 form.
Not only do we see Tom Brady constantly spreading the ball around, but the Patriots field a strong rushing attack as well. For depth purposes, retaining Stallworth is a great idea.
However, aside from lining up in the slot on third down, it would be surprising to see his role expand next season, regardless of where Stallworth plays.