After yet another heartbreaking loss in the Super Bowl, Bill Belichick has a fresh offseason in front of him. According to the USA Today, an unbelievable 600 free agents could hit the market when their contracts expire on March 31. Compared to the hurried offseason of last year, this one has potential.
Instead of hurrying up to make moves, owners and coaches are able to take a more detailed look at the available players. Preseason planning can get underway sooner and the all important, quarterback/receiver relationships can being to develop. It’s a chemistry thing and this offseason should be full of it.
So that brings us to the Patriots. The decisions they will make this offseason have the potential to dramatically improve their roster. In addition to negotiating on the open market, they have two picks in both the first and second rounds of the draft. Picks 27, 31, 48 and 63 respectively. They also have a pick in the third and fourth rounds. They traded away their upper round picks so all deals should be done early in the draft. That is, if they do not trade away their spots to other teams.
Andre Carter could be back for the Patriots but they should consider bringing in some younger talent to create a pass rush. (FILE:Icon/SMI)
Where the Patriots really need help is on the defensive line. It seems like we’ve been saying it for years but it became glaringly obvious this season how little pass rush the Patriots have. Andre Carter and Mark Anderson were about as close as the team came, but both of them are free agents and age could be a factor. While Anderson will only be 29 at the start of next season, Carter will be 33. Carter will also be coming back from a season ending quad injury. It wouldn’t hurt Belichick to actually use one of those draft picks to pick up a defensive end.
Another piece the Patriots need to pick up is a true wide receiver. They’ve got the slot position pretty well set so long as they work out a deal with Wes Welker or franchise him. Yes he did have a big time drop but he is the reason the Patriots can march down the field. He is a chain mover and that is incredibly valuable. He takes a lot of hard hits and a body can only take so much, so I do not expect him to get a long deal, probably somewhere in the 3-5 year range. He also isn’t Calvin Johnson so he needs to be realistic with his monetary expectations.
If I had it my way the Patriots would draft Justin Blackmon out of Oklahoma State University. He and QB Brandon Weeden had great chemistry that created an explosive offense. Blackmon had 121 catches for 1,522 yards and 18 TDs. Unfortunately he will probably go in the top 10 and there’s no way Belichick will jump up that far, but I would still love to have him on the Patriots.
What I do see as a possibility is Brandon Lloyd coming to New England. There are just too many pieces falling into place. Josh McDaniels is the offensive coordinator (Lloyd has has tremendous success with him at the helm), Lloyd is an unrestricted free agent, and Deion Branch and Chad Ochocinco didn’t exactly perform for the Patriots, so there’s room for an upgrade.
Overall I think the Patriots will find most of their pieces on the free agent market. They currently have $101,827,381 committed to their 2012 roster. The estimated salary cap for 2012 is somewhere between $121 and $125 million, it has not been set yet. While $5 million does need to be set aside for rookies, the Patriots are not tight on cash so they have a lot of options. As the offseason rolls on, look for the Patriots to pick up veteran leaders and versatile players that can fit into the Belichick system.