Top 5 Needs for Patriots This Offseason
The New England Patriots' future is in jeopardy the next couple months. There are many positions on their roster that they need to address, and anything short of a great offseason this year could stunt this team for years to come.
With so much at stake and so much on the line, let's take a look at the Patriots top 5 needs this offseason:
1. Tight end
Two things were abundantly clear this season at for the Patriots at the tight end position:
1. Rob Gronkowski is missed
2. No tight end on the roster is the answer
The tight end position was so bad this season that the team had to refrain from using it. Ben Watson, Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo could never be a big part of the gameplan and could never come close to replicating anything near the production received from the tight end spot in years past.
The tight end spot will be addressed to some capacity this offseason. With Hunter Henry and Austin Hooper slated to become free agents, among some other talented TEs, the possibility exists for the Patriots to really bolster that position. Free agency will be the spot to address this, as the tight end draft class appears to be rather weak.
2. Defensive lineman
As it currently stands, Byron Cowart and Chase Winovich are the only two defensive lineman signed through 2022. Every other defensive lineman is set to hit the free agency block either this year or next year. This is undoubtably troubling.
The d-line has several underrated pieces, like Adam Butler, Lawrence Guy, or John Simon. Yet, despite their strong ability in run support, it still was not enough this last season. This line was gashed in several key games during the year and it was no secret that the method to attack this defense was on the ground.
Another point to mention is that outside of Winovich and Butler, the other defensive linemen really lacked when it came to putting consistent pressure on the quarterback. In order to apply pressure, the Patriots had to use over-aggressive measures and blitz linebackers. This method worked well at the beginning of the year, however, while the team traveled further into the season, even bringing extra men was not working in terms of pressure.
Just when you thought it could not get any worse, defensive line coach Brett Bielema left for New York to coach with another former Bew England assistant, Joe Judge.
Now, not only does New England need to add defensive line pieces for the future, but they also need a new position coach and to retain some of the guys who have contracts up over the next two years.
Guy, Butler, and Simon will be crucial to bring back. However, what the Patriots really need, on top of those resignings, is a true run-stopper inside (which they have not had since Vince Wilfork) and another pass rusher, who is able to disrupt the pocket for the quarterback. Neither is easy to come by, especially disruptive pass rushers. However, New England has to try to bolster that unit.
This could be a position the team targets in the first round of the draft. Do not rule out an edge player or defensive tackle getting selected at pick 23, if the right guy falls to them.
3. Offensive Tackle
Isaiah Wynn was very good in his first full season. However, he has demonstrated that he struggles to stay healthy. On the other side of the line, Marcus Cannon did not have a good year. In fact, he had one of his tougher seasons to date. Both of those players have talent, yet, the Patriots need more dependability at the position.
Yondy Cajuste was drafted last season and appears to have some talent. But he has no NFL track record.
Cannon's cap hit this season is a little high for many people's liking. He is slated to make just under $9 million against the cap this year. That is good for the highest cap among New England's linemen and third highest overall on the team. Coming off a shaky season and having a high cap number does not bode well for Cannon's future on the team. Whether he will be in New England next season is very much in question.
Therefore, not only could the Patriots be in the market for a starting tackle, but they should also be eying a better backup tackle than Marshall Newhouse, in the event of an injury.
Assuming Tom Brady comes back, protecting a 43 year old quarterback should always be the priority, especially around the edges.
4. Wide receiver
Some time for Mohamed Sanu and N'Keal Harry will be very beneficial for this offense. The jury is still very much out for them, as their time within the Patriots' offense has not been extensive. Expect their contributions to be much larger next year.
With that being said, for this offense to truly succeed, Brady (assuming he is back) will need another go-to guy besides Julian Edelman. This offense truly runs and flows best when Edelman is Brady's second option, and the offense would benefit immensely from a guy who can get a nice jump off the ball, run solid routes, and most importantly, get open quickly.
Someone like Danny Amendola would be great as a lower on the depth chart option. However, a number one guy like Cooper Kupp would do wonders for this offense. Kupp, in the final year of his cheap, rookie deal, could be potentially be acquired at a somewhat similar price to former Patriot, Brandin Cooks.
In addition to the now, the future at the position very much hangs in the balance. Edelman has two years left on his deal from last offseason, and with a plethora of injuries this year, he might not have many playing years left. Sanu also has a year left on his deal. As of now, the only receiver signed through 2022 is Harry. Another guy is needed for the present and the future.
Luckily the 2020 draft is stacked with very high quality receivers and might be one of the best receiver draft classes in a long time. That is another route the team could go.
Devin McCourty does not intend to retire this year, however, his time is certainly drawing nearer. He has mulled retirement the last two offseasons. Not to mention, he is currently slated to become a free agent this year.
Patrick Chung is another player getting older. He showed signs of rust this season as his once biggest strength in covering tight ends actually turned out to be a weakness. The tough season for Chung was also marred by off the field issues and nicks and bruises. His playing days are certainly numbered.
The third safety on this team, Duron Harmon, is entering a contract year. His future is yet to be discussed and is very much up in the air.
With the futures for the team's three top safeties in question, New England should look to acquire a safety net in case things take a turn for the worse. This draft has plenty of high quality safeties to target. Look for that to be a problem addressed in the mid-rounds of the draft. There are also several free agents the Patriots could target for an immediate McCourty replacement.