The New England Patriots have been active in the free agent market, sort of.
The team has resigned several key players, including taking care of their top priority, nose tackle Vince Wilfork.
Wilfork and the Pats agreed to a five-year deal that would make him the highest paid nose tackle in the NFL. New England has rewarded cornerback Leigh Bodden with a new four-year deal, has resigned team sack leader Tully Banta-Cain, Kevin Faulk, Stephen Neal, and tendering restricted free agents Logan Mankins and Stephen Gostkowski.
All these players are important pieces to the puzzle and New England needed to make sure they brought them back, especially Wilfork. However, the ownership needs to remember that this previous season those players only brought the team to the first round of the playoffs before getting blown out by the Baltimore Ravens.
The only roster concern the team had coming into the offseason that has been resolved is Wilfork, and they even managed to create another one. More needs to be done to this team to bring them back to the Super Bowl, and that more needs to come from outside of the organization.
The need for a dramatically improved pass rush has been made worse. Keeping Banta-Cain is good, but it’s asking a lot of him to recreate the season he had in 2009. The team still hasn’t found anyone to replace Richard Seymour and now Jarvis Green has left the team, leaving the team with a thin defensive line without much experience.
With the news that Wes Welker won’t be around for the start of the season and that Randy Moss doesn’t plan on being around after this season, wide receiver help became a must. The team signed David Patten. Though he is a former Patriot, he is not a difference maker. Last year’s surprise, Julian Edelman, did not perform on a consistent basis enough to fully trust him yet.
They also have not made any moves to shore up a weak secondary, mainly at the cornerback position, and improving a disappointing and inconsistent running game that is used with a “by-committee” approach.
The team also managed to create a huge hole at the tight end position by letting Benjamin Watson go and sign with Cleveland and releasing backup Chris Baker. Now in addition to solving the problems the team came into the offseason with, they now have to address another glaring weakness.
There is still a lot of time left until the roster is set and the season starts. There are still a number of talented free agents available in the pool. The draft is still upcoming as well, and with five picks in the first two rounds the Patriots have the resources to collect a lot of talent, either by using the selections themselves or by packaging them for good players from other teams.
The resources are there but the Patriots have to utilize them. It has never been the team’s mantra to throw tons of money at All-Pros from other, less successful teams, and they don’t have to. The team has previously showed that they didn’t need the biggest names to win it all. Still, the aging and average retreads will not push the Patriots back to the next level.
You’ve taken care of your in-house business New England, now go out and make your team better, not just keep it the same.