The New England Patriots have one of the youngest defensive groups in football, especially in their secondary.
New England's defensive backfield has been its strength due to the sensational play out of cornerback Devin McCourty. However, New England's secondary could use some help because it's been inconsistent at times.
New England's cornerback position should not be a problem entering 2011, as it's found its No. 1 cornerback in McCourty and has Leigh Bodden returning from injury, who will slot in nicely as the team's No. 2 cornerback.
However, the safety position is where the inconsistency primarily occurs.
The Patriots have a lot of potential at their safety position, as players like Brandon Meriweather, Patrick Chung and James Sanders have all shown signs of being reliable options. However, they could also be an issue next season due to their inconsistency and lack of experience, which will result in a major weakness.
One free-agent safety that could make an instant impact, as he's coming off a career year, is Donte Whitner.
The 25-year-old has spent his entire career with the Buffalo Bills and has shown signs of greatness despite playing on the basement-dwelling Bills.
Whitner accumulated 140 total tackles in 2010 as he intercepted one pass and defended seven passes.
The former first-round pick should not cash in tremendously once free agency begins and should come at a cheap cost, which is certainly a plus from New England's point of view.
One of the biggest reasons why Bill Belichick may target Whitner is simply familiarity—while playing for Buffalo, he's faced New England twice a year during his five-year career, and Belichick should have a strong idea of what he's getting if he decides to sign Whitner to a contract.
Whitner would likely jump right in as one of New England's starting safeties and would make a sudden impact on a team that allowed 7.8 yards per pass attempt on third down last season.
Belichick has shown a tendency to roll with his players that he's drafted and brought into his system, but there's no denying that Whitner is a very talented player, considering that he's a former first-round selection.
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