The Patriots enter this offseason with many of the same needs they've had in recent years: a consistent pass rusher, quality starters in the secondary, plus a big-play, deep-threat wide receiver (among other areas).
With long snapper
Matt Flynn, Matt Cassel, Michael Vick, Josh McCown, Dan Orlovsky
Flynn, Cassel, Vick, and McCown all were competing for starting jobs throughout 2013, with Flynn and McCown acquitting themselves quite well when Green Bay’s and Chicago’s starters, respectively, went down for long stretches. Cassel, too, showed glimpses of his leadership abilities in sporadic opportunities with the Vikings. Vick lost out early to Nick Foles in Philadelphia, while Orlovsky quietly rode the pine in Tampa, as he’s done pretty much throughout his pro career in several NFL stops.
Cassel, McCown, Flynn
New England obviously isn’t looking for someone to compete with
Fullbacks: John Kuhn, Greg Jones
Blount had a phenomenal run (pun intended) with the Patriots toward the end of 2013. Moreno had a resurgent season as well in Denver, while Jones-Drew proved he’s still a threat. Tate and Starks are talented young players who are entering their primes. Brown is still a dependable player, while McFadden has seen much better days. Kuhn is a fan favorite in Green Bay with his blue-collar style, and Jones is a versatile veteran.
Blount, Jones-Drew, Starks, Brown
Blount was reborn after being traded from Tampa Bay to New England last year and seems to enjoy being part of this club. He may get considerable interest from other teams, but might be willing to stay if New England offers something competitive. Jones-Drew may have had it with the miserable seasons he’s endured in Jacksonville and Foxborough might be just the tonic, especially if Blount moves on. Starks would be a comparable player, skill-set wise, to Blount. Brown would be a last-resort. Don’t expect the Patriots to shop for a fullback, however, after the emergence of
Eric Decker, Hakeem Nicks, Emmanuel Sanders,
We’re not talking all-time great names like Moss, Rice, or Fitzgerald here, but still a decent list of players who could be interested in changing teams. Boldin is long in the tooth, but all the rest are either in or entering their primes.
Edelman, Sanders, LaFell, Decker, Jones
Edelman had a tremendous year – his first being able to play all 16 games – and might benefit from overpriced offers from other clubs. While Brady is a great player from whom to catch passes, the California native might be tempted if West Coast teams with good, young QBs like San Francisco or Seattle come calling. Sanders is a player whom the Patriots were interested in acquiring last offseason, so, they might try again this spring. LaFell is a talented young playmaker who could give Brady a deep threat, and Decker’s experience with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels makes him an obvious potential target for the Patriots. Jones might be the best combination of downfield threat and affordablility (from a Patriots perspective).
Jimmy Graham, Scott Chandler,
Clearly, Graham is the cream of this crop as one of the best players in the league at the position, surpassed only by a healthy
Chandler, Hoomanawanui, Pitta
Graham is clearly not an option for New England, so, Chandler might be more plausible. He’s been a thorn in the team’s side as a member of the Buffalo Bills and is similar in size to Gronkowski. Pitta is more of a pass-catching specialist who could add a tight end element that the Patriots lacked for most of 2013 (without Gronk). Hooman has ingratiated himself both on and off the field here.
Eugene Monroe – T, Breno Giacomini – T, Eric Winston – T; Zane Beadles – G, John Jerry – G; Alex Mack – C, Brian De La Puente – C
All these guys have been durable, mostly full-time starters for their respective teams, in some cases nearly their entire NFL careers. O-line can be the toughest of positions to evaluate, but these players have stood out. Giacomini, a Massachusetts high school star, was Seattle’s starting right tackle before injuring a knee last season.
Incumbent right tackle
Coming tomorrow, analysis of the defensive free agents.