Moves the New England Patriots Will Regret Not Making This Offseason

James Christensen@@nepatriotsdraftContributor IApril 6, 2014

Moves the New England Patriots Will Regret Not Making This Offseason

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    Matt Slocum

    New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is not one that lets poor decisions fester. He readily admits his mistake, moves on—see Adrian Wilson for the latest example—and finds a way to rectify the situation.

    Every offseason is fraught with the possibility of making a grave error. While Aqib Talib leaving for the Denver Broncos looked like a disaster at first, the subsequent signings of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner assuaged any fears in New England. 

    With one bullet already dodged, here are five possible moves that the Patriots might regret not making.

     

Not Re-Signing Dane Fletcher

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    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    Why The Patriots Will Regret It

    Behind the impressive trio of Jerod Mayo, Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins, the depth at linebacker for the New England Patriots is almost non-existent. The next three linebackers—Ja'Gared Davis, Steve Beauharnais and Chris White—played a total of two snaps in 2013.

    Fletcher offered a solid presence in coverage that could get after the quarterback. His contributions on special teams will be sorely missed.

     

    Why They Won't

    They may have missed on versatile linebacker Wesley Woodyard—who signed with the Tennessee Titans—but there are multiple options in the middle rounds of the 2014 NFL draft for the Patriots to pursue.

    Iowa linebacker Christian Kirksey and Montana linebacker Jordan Tripp headline a group of smaller, quicker Day 2 and Day 3 prospects that excel against the run, in coverage and on special teams.

Letting LeGarrette Blount Walk

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Why The Patriots Will Regret It

    The New England Patriots eschewed re-signing LeGarrette Blount and chose not to sign a free-agent replacement thus far. With Stevan Ridley going into his contract year—and compounded by his fumbling issues—the need for a competent backup is real.

    Blount also had value on special teams, providing a spark on the languishing kickoff return unit. There may be some pieces on the current roster that can replace that production—Josh Boyce comes to mind—but they are far from proven.

     

    Why They Won't

    Running backs in the 2014 NFL draft are plentiful and are expected to be cheap. There aren't any Adrian Peterson or Walter Payton-esque backs in this class, but that doesn't mean they can't fill a role.

    If New England wants to splurge, they could spend an early Day 2 pick on Ohio State power-back Carlos Hyde. A more likely option would be Arizona State running back Marion Grice, who should be available on Day 3.

Failing to Add Interior Lineman Depth

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    Why The Patriots Will Regret It

    On an offensive line with stalwarts like Nate Solder, Logan Mankins and Sebastian Vollmer, it isn't a surprise that the unheralded duo of Ryan Wendell and Dan Connolly were the weak link in 2013 after good performances in 2012. How poorly they performed last season, however, might come as a shock.

    Connolly—68 out of 81—and Wendell—33 out of 35—were two of the worst performers at their positions, as tracked by Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

    While familiarity with the offensive system helps, it is clear the New England Patriots could make an upgrade at either or both of these positions.

     

    Why They Won't

    If Wendell or Connolly fails to return to their 2012 form, Marcus Cannon is waiting in the wings. A healthy Vollmer frees up Cannon to return inside at right guard. He could take over for Connolly or Wendell, with Connolly moving to center in the latter scenario.

    There are also some options available in the 2014 NFL draft that could alleviate any concerns about the interior offensive line. UCLA guard Xavier Su'a-Filo can play any position on the line—he is best suited at guard or center—and has the movement ability to excel on screens and misdirection plays.

Not Extending Devin McCourty

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    Bob Leverone

    Why The Patriots Will Regret It

    Since transitioning from cornerback to safety following a subpar sophomore campaign, Devin McCourty has been one of the top performers at free safety in the NFL. While he doesn't make some of the splashy plays like the Seattle Seahawks' Earl Thomas, McCourty has an equal impact for the New England Patriots.

    He currently has a cap number just north of $5 million, an amount that could be decreased if the Patriots were able to sign him to an extension.

    Now in his contract year, McCourty's asking price is likely to increase as he nears free agency. If McCourty has another top-notch season in 2014, his value could go through the roof.

     

    Why They Won't

    There is no reason that the Patriots can't extend McCourty in the coming months. However, if they do allow him to hit free agency, they could have an option to replace him on the roster.

    Second-year cornerback Logan Ryan has been named as a possible candidate to duplicate McCourty's transition from cornerback to safety this season. If he is successful at free safety, that could provide the needed leverage to keep McCourty's price reasonable.

Neglecting Pass-Rushers

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    Ann Heisenfelt

    Why The Patriots Will Regret It

    The New England secondary is imposing. Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Devin Mccourty, Logan Ryan, Alfonzo Dennard and others will make it hard for opponents to get open. That said, even talented corners can't cover receivers forever.

    Veterans like Jared Allen—now a Chicago Bear—and DeMarcus Ware—now a Denver Bronco—were passed on, despite Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich being the only consistent pass-rushing options on New England's defense in 2013. Neutralize them—or if one suffers an injury—and opponents are going to carve up the secondary no matter how much of an upgrade you've applied.

     

    Why They Won't

    There are some options to explore on the current roster, Jake Bequette being chief among them. If he can't find the field in preseason, I don't see him making the 53-man roster again. Jamie Collins is another possible edge-rusher, but he can only be used there if the Patriots add another coverage linebacker.

    In the 2014 NFL draft, there are some expensive options—Anthony Barr and Khalil Mack will be first-round picks—and some value options. Oregon State defensive end Scott Crichton and Auburn defensive end Dee Ford are two talented rushers that will be available in New England's range of picks.