As the NFL Combine continues and free agency looms, the New England Patriots are looking to build yet another championship-caliber team.
It might surprise some because this team won their fifth Lombardi Trophy in February but this team does have needs. There are holes within this roster that the Patriots need to address. The Patriots have free agency as well as the NFL Draft to do so.
The Patriots are not in the same boat as say the Cleveland Browns, but defending the title is just as difficult as winning the championship. Teams are gunning for the Patriots’ spot atop the NFL. So they will have to reload their roster for the defense of their title.
Two Most Important Offseason Needs
Pass Rush: The Patriots’ pass rush in 2016 was inconsistent at times. There were multiple players with multiple sacks and hits on the opposing quarterback. The New England Patriots would benefit greatly from a consistent pass rush. Alan Branch, Dont’a Hightower, Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard are all free agents. These four players combined for 13 sacks and all four could see their way out of the door. This is a need for the New England Patriots to address an inconsistent pass rush.
Offensive Line: Quarterback Tom Brady was sacked 24 times last season. However, it was like night and day with the offensive line from last year to this year. The line was more consistent all season long. Nate Solder came back healthy and second-year linemen David Andrews and Shaq Mason performed well for the Patriots. Marcus Cannon bounced back from a disappointing season last year and rookie Joe Thuney stepped up well. The more the merrier should be the Patriots motto heading into the off-season when it comes to the offensive line. The reason is because protecting Brady so he can do his thing, is how the offense runs.
Other Holes to Fill
Tight End: How healthy will Rob Gronkowski be this upcoming season? Will Martellus Bennett be back in a Patriots uniform? Only time will tell but the Patriots will be looking at options at the tight end position. More tight ends means more weapons in Tom Brady’s arsenal. Also, the Patriots would benefit for tight ends who can block for Brady and the running backs.
Running Back: James White along with Dion Lewis will be back in New England. They both will handle the pass catching duties as well as some rush attempts in the offense. However, the Patriots could be looking to add a strong running back, if LeGarrette Blount does not return. Even if he is interested in coming back to New England, the team should see if there are other options. Even though Blount was great in carrying the offense this season, he under-performed in the playoffs. Blount has never been a great postseason running back. Some factors include the game plan or playing against better defenses (if you take away his performances against the Colts).
The Patriots have approximately $67 million in cap room to re-sign their own players and bring in other valuable players. The Patriots have many impending free agents that they have to make tough decisions on who to keep and who to let go.