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Re-Ranking the Biggest Patriots Needs

The New England Patriots addressed a lot of needs in the first wave of free agency but work still remains in some areas

It's well known by now that no team was as active in the first wave of free agency than the New England Patriots, who took advantage of their ample cap space to reshape their roster.

The Patriots ended up signing 10 unrestricted free agents in that first wave, a group led by blue-chip tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith plus linebacker Matt Judon.

In addition to the 10 UFAs, the Patriots brought back tackle Trent Brown in a trade with the Raiders and linebacker Kyle Van Noy as a "street free agent" after the Miami Dolphins released him one year after giving him a four-year contract.

In the process, the Patriots filled a lot of the needs they had following their uncharacteristic 7-9 season.

There's still work to be done on the roster before the 2021 season kicks off, though, and we examine the biggest needs heading into the second wave of free agency — assuming New England will even get involved in it — and the draft.

QUARTERBACK

The big move of the offseason was the re-signing of veteran Cam Newton, though the details of the contract made it clear the Patriots aren't done looking for an answer at the position. Jarrett Stidham also is on the roster, but he's done nothing yet to suggest he's the answer. And there's been enough speculation about trading for a veteran (Jimmy Garoppolo) or even trading up in the first round of the NFL draft to indicate where things stand at this position. Degree of need: Significant

RUNNING BACK

The Patriots have had good depth at this position for a while, and that still applies moving forward after pass-catcher extraordinaire James White was re-signed to a one-year deal. With White, Damien Harris and Sony Michel, the Patriots look like they're in good shape at this position heading into 2021. Degree of need: Minimal

WIDE RECEIVER

The Patriots added speedster Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne in free agency, adding a much-needed influx of talent at the position. Those two should team with Julian Edelman to provide a solid core at wide receiver, but there's probably not a true No. 1 guy on the roster at this time. Need: Fairly significant

TIGHT END

The Patriots' doubling down with Henry and Smith turned tight end from the biggest need on the roster to the strength of the team. Period. Need: Almost nonexistent

OFFENSIVE LINE

Losing Joe Thuney obviously was a blow for the Pats offensive line, but that was overshadowed by the team being able to re-sign David Andrews at center after it brought back Ted Karras and Brown. If the group can stay healthy, this has the makings of one of the best lines in the NFL. Need: Minimal

DEFENSIVE LINE

The Patriots were busy at this position in free agency, bringing in Henry Anderson from the Jets and Davon Godchaux from the Dolphins and re-signing Lawrence Guy, Deatrich Wise and Carl Davis. Those moves more than offset the losses of Beau Allen and Adam Butler. New England has a lot of depth up front, even if it doesn't have a front-line player. Need: Fairly minimal

EDGE DEFENDERS

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Less than a year after selecting Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings in the second and third rounds of the NFL draft, the Patriots reinforced this area by adding Judon and Van Noy, who both figure to start — at least get significant snaps. Need: Minimal

LINEBACKER

The Patriots were relatively quiet in this area compared to others, but the key here will be the return of Dont'a Hightower after he opted out of the 2020 season. Newcomer Raekwon McMillan will provide depth to a group that also includes Ja'Whaun Bentley. Need: Moderate

SAFETY

The retirement of Patrick Chung was the biggest news of the offseason at this position, but he didn't play in 2020 after opting out, so the Pats already have played without him. Devin McCourty and Adrian Phillips are back as the likely starters, though it's fair to expect a bigger contribution from 2020 second-round pick Kyle Dugger. Need: Minimal

CORNERBACK

This is the position on this team, outside of quarterback, where there's the most intrigue. The Patriots are two unsolved situations involving Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson and how they deal with each will go a long way toward determining what kind of need they'll end up having a cornerback. Both issues have to deal with contracts, including whether another offer team will sign Jackson to an offer sheet after the Patriots gave a second-round tender as a restricted free agent. If Jackson and Gilmore both return in 2021, the Patriots have a really good group there with those two plus Jonathan Jones and Joejuan Williams. Need: Moderate

RANKING THE POSITIONS IN ORDER OF NEED:

1. Quarterback

2. Wide receiver

3. Linebacker

4. Cornerback

5. Defensive line

6. Safety

7. Edge defenders

8. Offensive line

9. Running back

10. Tight end