Grading the New England Patriots' Offseason

Aashish SharmaCorrespondent IApril 15, 2013

Grading the New England Patriots' Offseason

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    The New England Patriots have had a busy offseason. After losing key stars such as Wes Welker and Danny Woodhead, they have been one of the more active teams in free agency.

    The Patriots wasted no time finding Welker's replacement, signing former St. Louis Rams receiver Danny Amendola to a five-year deal.

    Bill Belichick also entertained a trio of defensive stars about a month ago, working out Adrian Wilson, John Abraham and Dwight Freeney.

    He ended up signing Wilson to a three-year deal, a move that has received praise from fans as well as the media. 

    But those were just the high-profile moves. In addition to the signings of Amendola and Wilson, let's grade the flurry of signings New England made since the commencement of free agency. 

Danny Amendola

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    The New England Patriots signed Danny Amendola to a five-year, $31 million contract on March 13, 2013.

    He was used in a similar role to former Patriots All-Pro receiver Wes Welker, running most of his routes out of the slot. However, Amendola also showed the ability to work the outside on sideline routes.

    About two weeks ago he was spotted with quarterback Tom Brady in Los Angeles, with the two already practicing at the USC football fields.

    As of now he figures to be Tom Brady’s third option behind tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

    But if Gronkowski is expected to miss the beginning of the season, expect the Patriots to rely heavily on Amendola early in the season. 

    Grade: A

Adrian Wilson

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    One thing was clear this offseason: The Patriots (either through the draft or free agency) had to address their defensive needs, particularly in the secondary.

    Ranking 29th in pass defense last season, New England allowed an average of 271.4 yards per game through the air.

    They made a splash this offseason by signing veteran strong safety Adrian Wilson, who was released by the Arizona Cardinals.

    The 33-year-old defensive back is a five-time Pro Bowler as well as a four-time All-Pro selection.

    In addition to bringing physicality and improved defense in the passing game, Wilson is a leader and can bring a veteran presence—much like Rodney Harrison did—to a very young corps of defensive backs. 

    Grade: A

Donald Jones

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    The Patriots lost two integral offensive weapons in Wes Welker and Danny Woodhead to free agency. Coupled with the loss of Brandon Lloyd (who was cut) as well as the potential early-season absence of Rob Gronkowski, and the Patriots offense looks noticeably thin.

    That is why Bill Belichick signed former Buffalo Bills receiver Donald Jones.

    While not very well-known, Jones is a serviceable receiver, logging career highs in receptions (41), receiving yards (443) and touchdowns (four) in 2012—not bad for someone catching passes from Ryan Fitzpatrick.

    While the signing was most likely to create depth, Jones might emerge as a pleasant surprise playing with Tom Brady.

    Grade: B

Michael Jenkins

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    As with the Donald Jones signing, the Patriots signed Michael Jenkins to bolster their receiving corps. The 30-year-old veteran has spent his first seven years in the league with the Atlanta Falcons, and the last two with the Minnesota Vikings.

    Although he endured injuries in 2010 and 2011, Jenkins has managed to say relatively durable during his 10-year career.

    A reliable receiver, Jenkins caught 40 passes for 449 yards and a pair of touchdowns in 2012.

    Grade: B

Aqib Talib

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    Aqib Talib was acquired by the New England Patriots on November 1, 2012. After serving the final two games of a suspension due to his violating the leagues drug policy, Talib made his Patriots debut on November 18 against the Indianapolis Colts.

    Despite showing a few early signs of rust, Talib made an instant impact, picking off Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck and returning the ball 59 yards for a touchdown.  

    With Talib playing cornerback, Devin McCourty was moved to safety, which proved to be beneficial to the Patriots offense.

    After the Patriots were eliminated from the playoffs in the AFC Championship Game, Talib, who was a free agent, hinted that this was he would not be returning. However, on March 16 the Patriots re-signed him to a one-year deal.

    The only concerns surrounding Talib are his health and off-field issues. If he can manage to stay injury-free in 2013 while maintaining good citizenship, his return should prove invaluable to the Patriots defense. 

    Grade: A-

Sebastian Vollmer

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    There were plenty of question marks surrounding the New England Patriots offensive line entering the 2012 season. The retirement of left tackle Matt Light, absence of right guard Brian Waters during training camp and health of left guard Logan Mankins were all topics of conversation in the Boston sports stratosphere.

    However all doubts were answered when the O-line showed great poise all year long. Much of that can be credited to right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, who played in 15 regular-season games for the Patriots.

    Much to the joy of New England fans, the Patriots re-signed him to a four-year, $27 million ($8.25 guaranteed) deal.

    Grade: A-

Kyle Arrington

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    Cornerback Kyle Arrington has been criticized for his inability to be a lockdown cornerback on outside receivers.

    However last year he proved his value in nickel and dime situations oftentimes picking up slot receivers.

    He signed a four-year deal to stay with the New England Patriots, and is likely to pick up right where he left off—as a reliable fifth defensive back.

    Grade: B

Julian Edelman

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    Edelman is perhaps the most versatile player the Patriots have. He is a capable slot receiver, above-average punt returner and even saw a few snaps as a defensive back in 2011.

    His role on offense seemed to grow last year year. He played in nine games and racked up 235 yards before landing on injured reserve with a hand injury.

    A free agent following last season, the Patriots re-signed him to a one-year deal on April 10.

    With Welker leaving for Denver, Edelman will now have an opportunity (along with Amendola) to fill the role as a threat out of the slot. 

    Grade: B+