NFL free agency can be a dangerous siren, with big contracts and flashy headlines in the spring often offering empty promises of results in the fall. Not all big-money free-agent signings are bad, of course, but relying upon free agency as a means of propelling oneself to instant contention is a dangerous path.
The New England Patriots have largely avoided those pitfalls under Bill Belichick, typically opting for middle-class value over top-class money. By relying primarily on the draft and player development, the Patriots have minimized the fallout from spectacular misses like Jonathan Fanene and Leon Washington, to name two recent examples.
With roughly $9.5 million of projected cap space (before Steve Gregory's release last Friday), per ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss, the Patriots do not have much money to make big free-agent splashes anyway. When factoring in the cap room set aside for draft picks and in-season moves, the Pats will not be players for the biggest names on the market.
That's not to say it will not be eventful, for the Patriots have some well-defined areas to address. In composing this list, it's important to keep one overriding question in mind: What will most help the Patriots capture that elusive fourth Lombardi Trophy?
With that in mind, here are five moves that could set the Patriots on a promising path for the 2014 season.
*All salary data courtesy Spotrac.com.