Top 5 Concerns Patriots Still Face This Offseason
The New England Patriots ended the 2013 NFL season on a bad note. The Denver Broncos handed the Patriots a double digit loss in the AFC championship and the New England rival, Peyton Manning, threw for 400 yards.
It was a demoralizing loss and the team appeared riddled with holes across the depth chart. This year the team hopes to fix these holes in the preseason.
One of the biggest storylines last offseason was the controversial departure of Patriots receiver Wes Welker, who left New England to join the Denver Broncos. This obviously did not sit well with fans when we lost to him in the playoffs. The Patriots No. 1 cornerback at the time was Aqib Talib, but Wes Welker lowered his body into him and knocked him out for the game, resulting in a Demaryius Thomas vs. Alfonzo Dennard mismatch that the Broncos exploited for the remainder of the game.
The Patriots were working to re-sign Aqib Talib, but Aqib Talib apparently forgave Wes Welker, and signed a huge contract with the Denver Broncos. Hearts were broken in New England once again.
But not for long....
As the night progressed, news finally broke of a New England Patriots signing. Cornerback Darrelle Revis, NFL.com’s top ranked free agent, was now heading to the New England Patriots. This was the Patriots first signing in free agency and it may just be the biggest splash in this offseason for any team.
There are, however, many other issues the Patriots need to address in order to get themselves back into contention for a Super Bowl. Now that cornerback is taken care of, here are the top five concerns the Patriots still face.
5. Cap Space
The top four needs are all positional, but none of those needs can be properly addressed without having the money to spend on the players.
The Patriots had approximately $17 million in cap space before signing Darrelle Revis. Revis will make $12 million this season but only $7 of it is going against the cap. Still there is only around $10 million left which is not ideal. This means the Patriots are going to have to restructure some contracts and, possibly, even release some people.
Just so you have it in 1 place ... Revis on Patriots' cap: $7M for 2014, $25M for ’15 or $5M in dead money for ’15 if option isn’t exercised— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 13, 2014
The first to be released or restructured has to be Vince Wilfork. According to Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston, the New England Patriots contacted Wilfork not long ago about restructuring. With spending in free agency happening now though, it seems the two sides have not come to an agreement.
Wilfork is due to earn $7.5 million in base salary in 2014, the final year of his deal. His salary-cap charge is a hefty $11.6 million. He turns 33 in November and is coming off a torn Achilles injury that ended his 2013 season after four games.
A few other players worth extending to free some space are Logan Mankins, Devin McCourty, Dan Connelly and Stephen Gostkowski. Players on the chopping block are Tommy Kelly and Adrian Wilson. Releasing those two players would bring the team close to $3 million in cap space.
4. Defensive End
In the AFC Championship Game, the biggest flaw in the Patriots defense was their inability to apply pressure to Peyton Manning.
Now the Patriots love Rob Ninkovich, and he is a great player, but they could upgrade at the position. They like to use rotations on their line, so do not be surprised if they bring someone in at the position.
If New England can make it work, they should take a run at free agent Jared Allen. Allen says he is willing to retire if he has to take a pay cut, but maybe the idea of winning would be worth a bit of money, too. I mean, it did get Darrelle Revis to cut his original 2014 contract by $4 million.
The Patriots will be sure to add some depth at the position. If they do not add it through free agency, you can expect them to use a draft pick on a talented edge-rusher.
3. Defensive Tackle
This one is entirely revolved around Vince Wilfork.
If he is still with the team, the Patriots will take into consideration that he is almost 33 years old and coming off of surgery, and they should address this position in the NFL draft. A rookie defensive tackle like Ra’Shede Hageman or Will Sutton could come in and learn behind Vince Wilfork and flourish into something special.
Hageman, as shown in the video above, has the potential to be a force in the middle of a defensive front and could become a leader of a defense, similar to that of Wilfork.
The other option is Vince Wilfork being released, which New England fans do not like the sound of. He has been one of the cornerstones of the defense for some time, and if he comes back strong he is a vital piece to the Patriots success.
There is no question that this is a position of need, but what happens with Wilfork will determine how big of a need it is exactly.
2. Tight End
The New England Patriots made two elite tight ends on one roster a realistic option in the NFL. It is not a necessity, but it is a luxury the Patriots have been trying to regain since losing Aaron Hernandez.
The team tested a few players, such as Zach Sudfeld and Jake Ballard, a year ago but nothing ever worked out. Michael Hoomanawanui proved to be serviceable, so he was recently re-signed to a two-year contract.
The team has their top tight end, Rob Gronkowski, but he is coming off of yet another set of season-altering injuries. He has been prone to injury for some time, so no tight ends are a sure thing on the roster, and the Patriots have always valued their tight ends.
The team should address this need in the draft. With cornerback locked up, there is potential to use their first-round pick on a player like Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro. Regardless if it is early rounds, late rounds or free agency, it is clear that the Patriots need a tight end.
1. Wide Receiver
We brought up earlier the loss of Wes Welker. This year it seems that the team may lose their leading receiver of last year, Julian Edelman, as well.
— Derek Havens (@PatriotsHaven) March 13, 2014
Luckily, this is a year with an extremely deep group of wide receivers in both free agency and the draft.
Wide receiver Steve Smith, who has been released by the Carolina Panthers, has shown interest in joining the New England Patriots. Also, the Patriots tried to sign wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who was a restricted free agent a year ago. Now that he is unrestricted, the Patriots could make a play at him once again.
The draft has a lot of talent at wide receiver, but with Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce all only on their second year, I would say it is best to find a veteran to come help the young guys progress.
The Patriots still have Danny Amendola, but with his knack to get injured, I’m not sure how much longer he will be with the team.
Tom Brady is the key to the Patriots' offensive success and he was left hanging both on and off the field far too often. It’s time to get this man some weapons.