When the NFL playoffs end and the offseason rolls around, fans of the New England Patriots will be clamoring for new weapons to surround quarterback Tom Brady. It's an understandable impulse; after all, Julian Edelman, the Patriots' top skill-position player this season, was once a seventh-round pick at quarterback and is an impending free agent.
However, when Rob Gronkowski eventually comes back, the Patriots will be set at the skill positions between Gronk, a hopefully returning Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Shane Vereen and now-rookies Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson. What the Patriots really lack moving forward is talent along the interior offensive line.
Logan Mankins is an All-Pro-caliber guard and tough as nails, but his injury history is well-documented and ill-timed, and he's on the back nine of his career as it is.
Beyond Mankins, the question marks really start to emerge. Center Ryan Wendell (worst center in the NFL in pass-blocking, per Pro Football Focus) and right guard Dan Connolly (73rd of 81 guards as a pass-blocker by the same metrics) are average on their best days. Swing lineman Marcus Cannon has upside at either tackle or guard, but the Patriots need more talent along the line overall.
Let's take a look at a few players the Patriots should look at to protect Brady going into the 2014 season.