So, with the regular season in the books and the playoffs about to start, here's some initial thoughts:
- Pats re-sign FAs Wes Welker, Aqib Talib, Sebastian Vollmer, Danny Woodhead, Julian Edelman, Kyle Arrington, Myron Pryor, Jake Ballard (RFA), Michael Hoomanawanui (RFA), Donald Thomas, Dane Fletcher, and one of Marquice Cole/Derrick Martin (if Arrington can't be re-signed for reaosnable money then both Cole and Martin could be re-signed as the nickel/dime guys and STers); they will need to do some significant restructuring to accomplish this
- Let go: Deion Branch, Pat Chung, Trevor Scott (would like to resign, but $$ may not be there), Tracey White (would like to resign, but $$ may not be there), Niko Koutovides, Josh Barrett, Will Allen, Jamey Richard. Chung has salvaged a bit the past few weeks, but I just don't see enough to warrant re-signing him. White and Scott are valuable role players, but they aren't my priorities, and given the number of FAs and the cap situation, if someone has to go they are down the line. I'd welcome both back if it could be managed. Branch has had a great career, but it's time to move on. He'll be on the shadow roster for 2013.
- Cut/traded: Daniel Fells, Spencer Larsen, Brian Waters (retired), probably one of Marquice Cole/Derrick Martin (money issue, unless Kyle Arrington walks)
- External FAs: Pats sign QB Matt Cassel. I wouldn't mind picking up someone like DT Glenn Dorsey as an alternative to Pyror, but unless some money can be found, I'm not sure how to do it.
All picks based on CBS Sports/NFL DraftScout's current (1/1) rankings (indicated in parentheses) and taken within 5 picks of their current order:
- Pats trade 32 (590 points) to Dallas for 50 and 82 (580 points).
- Pats trade Ryan Mallett to Arizona for 102, 135 and a conditional 2013 pick;
- Pats trade their 2 7th round picks to Philly for #165 in the 6th round.
50. Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia (81). 6'3" 234#.
Physical freak with tremendous range and upside, will solve the LB coverage problems. Dont'a Hightower moves up on the line at times. If Trent Murphy declares, he is an option. Otherwise, the Pats flip this pick for a 2013 1st.
62. Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon St. (57) 6' 182#.
Silky smooth WR with a bit of Reggie Wayne/Greg Jennings in his game. If the Pats re-sign Welker and Edelman, a WR group of Welker, Lloyd, Wheaton and Edelman would be very nice.
82. David Amerson, DB, North Carolina St. (83) 6'2" 194#.
Big DB who was an interception machine in 2011 but struggled this year. Move him to safety along with McCourty, and he will match up beautifully on TEs and big WRs as well.
94. Cornelius "Tank" Carradine, DE, Florida St. (103) 6'5" 265#.
1st round talent who slips because of ACL injury. Goes on PUP and probably gets a red shirt year, but could be another Chandler Jones. William Gholston (114) is intriguing, but his inconsistency is scary.
102. Brian Winters, OG, Kent St. (116) 6'5" 310#.
Physical, tough, small school lineman reminiscent of Logan Mankins, should step in immediately and eventually take over at LG.
135. Brandon Williams, DT, Missouri Southern (143). 6'3" 328#
Small school prospect with hints of Vince Wilfork kind of athleticism, had 8.5 sacks and 16.5 TFL playing NT this year. Can penetrate as well as be a space eater.
160. Reid Fragel, OT, Ohio St. (161) 6'7" 305#.
Former TE with one year of experience at RT. Very athletic, could develop as a swing tackle or even eventual starter.
Lot of speed and athleticism with that draft, plus some physical toughness. A fair amount of overlap with Manx's draft - not surprising, given that we like a lot of the same guys, and he's had a big influence on my thoughts. It's ironic though that Manx currently has the Pats taking Tavon Austin in the 1st round - my binky at WR for the Pats for months, but I just wouldn't take a WR in the 1st - while I have them taking his binky Wheaton in the 2nd.
Initial 2013 Roster:
QB(2): Brady, Cassel
RB(5): Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead, Brandon Bolden, Jeff Demps
WR(5): Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Markus Wheaton, Julian Edelman, Matt Slater
TE(4): Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Jake Ballard, Michael Hoomanawanui
OT(5): Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Cannon, Reid Fragel, Markus Zukevics
OG/C(6): Logan Mankins, Dan Connolly, Brian Winters, Donald Thomas, Ryan Wendell, Nick McDonald
DT(5): Vince Wilfork, Kyle Love, Brandon Deaderick, Brandon Williams, Myron Pryor/Marcus Forston
DE(5): Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Jermaine Cunningham, Justin Francis, Jake Bequette; Dont'a Hightower also plays DE; PUP/IR: Tank Carradine
LB(5): Jerod Mayo, Dont'a Hightower (also plays DE), Brandon Spikes, Alec Ogletree, Dane Fletcher
S(5): Devin McCourty, David Amerson, Steve Gregory, Tavon Wilson, Nate Ebner
CB(5): Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard, Ras-I Dowling, Kyle Arrington, Marquice Cole/Derrick Martin
ST(3): Stephen Gostkowski, Zoltan Mesko, Danny Aiken
That's 55 players. There would like be only four OTs, cutting the number to 54. The last cut would work itself out.
Note that if Alec Ogletree goes earlier than #50 the Pats try to flip #50 for a 2014 1st round pick, and then they probably try to re-sign Tracy White or Niko Koutovides later on, or promote Jeff Tarpinian from the PS. Either way, the Pats get a 1st round talent at #50 in Ogletree, or hopefully a 2014 1st.
I think this would address the major priorities expressed in the OP:
1. Fix the secondary: Talib/Dennard outside with Dowling for depth, and some combination of Arrington/Cole/Martin as the slot/nickel/dime/ST guys; McCourty staying at FS and becoming an Earl Thomas kind of safety and the QB of the secondary, with David Amerson developing as a big, rangy safety (perhaps an Adrian Wilson kind of player), with Gregory/Wilson as backups and playing the big nickel role, and Ebner for STs and development. I think this would be a very strong group.
2. The defensive line: Ninkovich/Cunningham/Francis/Scott has emerged as a nice platoon opposite Chandler Jones. I'd like to keep Scott but it may not be feasible. Hopefully Jake Bequette can step up and replace his productivity. In addition, if the Pats get Alec Ogletree it would allow Dont'a Hightower to play on the DL more, which should more than make up for Scott's loss. For the long term, Tank Carradine would be a potential stud DE opposite Chandler Jones. He would likely redshirt for 2013, but could be a force in 2014. Brandon Williams is an under-the-radar talent with 2nd round potential who could develop nicely as a rotational DL. He offers more athleticism and playmaking ability than Love or Deaderick. The return of Myron Pryor and/or the development of Marcus Forston (or picking up Glenn Dorsey in FA, a longshot given the cap situation) would add a penetrating interior lineman that we've needed.
3. The OL: extending Vollmer is key. Donald Thomas has been a nice surprise this year, and should be kept on. Brian Winters is a potential long term starter at OG. Reid Fragel offers athleticism and upside as a swing tackle, or even a long term starter.
4. Receivers: keeping Welker and Edelman and adding a WR like Wheaton gives a solid long term group. Sign Ballard and Hoomanawanui as depth behind Gronk and Hernandez and the Pats are in very, very good shape.
5. A coverage LB: Alec Ogletree would be far more than that, and well worth the #50 pick. He's a 1st round talent, and would allow the Pats to move Dont'a Hightower around more and take advantage of his versatility.
Add in an extra conditional pick for 2014. If Ogletree is gone, then an extra 1st, which could be used to snag some major talent.