The New England Patriots, by many accounts, had a successful 2011 NFL Draft. They addressed the need for a backup running back with Shane Vereen, and (to some extent) bolstered the depth of the offensive line with Marcus Cannon and Nate Solder.
The team still has some weaknesses, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The team has effectively no pass rush, and Bill Belichick neglected to address that need through the draft.
Who knows how free agency will shape up with the lockout still in effect. If and when the lockout lifts, here are five free agents who could help the Patriots return to Super Bowl form.
After serving almost two years in jail for shooting himself in the leg (Donte Stallworth served 24 days for killing a man, mind you), Plaxico Burress is a free and unemployed man.
The Patriots have a good history with "troubled" receivers (Randy Moss comes to mind). I don't think Burress will command much money, as he hasn't played in two seasons. Burress could be a cheap option for the Patriots, who are in need of a deep threat to open up holes for Wes Welker. Brandon Tate hasn't proven a viable option here, so the Pats need to take a flyer elsewhere.
Mathias Kiwanuka, a first-round pick by the New York Giants in 2006, has struggled since coming into the league. He recorded eight sacks in 2008, but then started just six games in 2009 and battled injury throughout 2010.
The New England Patriots added the aging (or, aged) Marcus Stroud to shore up the pass rush, but I don't know how much impact the 32-year-old will have.
If Kiwanuka gets out of New York, where he's struggled the past two seasons, he could have a breakout season with the Patriots. At least we know that he can't make the pass rush much worse.
For lack of a better word, it would be silly for the Patriots to let BenJarvus Green-Ellis ("The Law Firm") walk. He's the best running back New England has seen since Corey Dillon.
Green-Ellis rushed for 1,008 yards in 2010, which is about as much as one can expect in this pass-heavy offense. With another year of experience, Green-Ellis should maintain that pace, if not surpass it.
This is obviously a stretch, as Posluszny is the one player on the Buffalo Bills that I actually notice when watching them play.
The Bills can't get much worse, and maybe Posluszny knows this. Maybe he wants to spend his prime in a place where he can win. New England offers him that place, as well as an already established young linebacking core. Brandon Spikes could move to the outside linebacker spot, and Posluszny could slide into the right inside spot.
Approaching 33, Matt Light is past his prime, and the Patriots drafted an incumbent in Nate Solder. But a rookie tackle replacing one of the game's best is a risky proposition, and New England would be smart to bring Light back.
It might be tough, as the three-time Pro Bowler will probably command more money elsewhere. But the wishful-thinking optimist in me hopes that he'll decide to come back to New England for at least one more solid shot at a Super Bowl.