Former Indianapolis Colts General Manager, President of Football Operations and current ESPN analyst, Bill Polian, wrote recently each of the league’s 32 teams top needs this off-season. The long time football executive said his analysis was based on their current roster, depth chart and ESPN Scout Inc’s player grades at each position.¬†Here is what Polian said on New England’s needs at this point¬†(Insider content) —¬†
Key need: S
“Despite the Patriots’ reputation as a perennial power, there are numerous needs here, with wide receiver and safety appearing the most glaring. New England always goes for value with its free-agent signings, which makes me think the Patriots will target a safety since that is usually where the best value can be found. They’ll certainly want to address a secondary that gave up the fourth-most passing yards (4,342) in 2012.”
I agree with a good portion of Polian’s analysis, but cornerback is the bigger need right now. No question, the Pats could definitely upgrade at safety to play alongside McCourty, but with Steve Gregory and Tavon Wilson under contract for the upcoming year, upgrading at the safety position would be more of a luxury right now.
You also have to take into consideration what cornerbacks are under contract at this time; Ras-I Dowling, Marquis Cole, Malcolm Williams and Alfonzo Dennard.¬†Dowling has not been able to stay healthy in his career; Dennard is facing legal issues, which could result in him missing time next season; Cole is a core special teams player; and Williams has mostly been a practice squad player.
On top of the lack of talent and depth the team has on their roster currently at cornerback, take into account who is a free-agent. Aqib Talib and Kyle Arrington are no locks to return. New England will have to focus on the position in both free agency and the draft.
Overall, I agree with Polian defensive back is a top need and Dennard’s legal situation does not necessarily change what or who the team was planning on targeting this off-season, but the priorities have shifted.
Fortunately for the Patriots, though, the free agent and draft pool are deep with defensive back talent. New England should be able to upgrade through those two channels. I am curious to see who the team targets early, but for that, only time will tell. Stay tuned.
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