Time to revise this "blueprint" based on the playoff woes of the 2010-2012 Patriots:
1. Fix the secondary, including getting more physical at CB to play press-man coverage, with physical safety play that doesn't sacrifice coverage ability
2. Get more physical on both lines, including the ability to run the ball in short yardage situations effectively, and to generate more effective pressure with a 4 man front
3. Get bigger, more physical and also faster at WR with the capability to stretch the field and to work the field outside as well as in the middle, and also to match up with big DBs and physical teams. More explosiveness would also be useful - the Pats' offense has been very efficient, but not particularly big play
4. Address the fact that we constantly get shredded by RBs and TEs
5. Find an eventual true successor to TB
The Next 3 Months:
1. The secondary:
- Re-sign Aqib Talib if possible (under $7M/year). Continuity is good, but don't break the bank. If Talib can't be re-signed, Keenan Lewis would be a good alternative
- Re-sign Kyle Arrington if cheap (under $1.5M/year). Marquice Cole could be re-signed as well, or as a cheaper alternative to Arrington, with a nickel/slot CB picked up in the draft
- Assess whether Ras-I Dowling is likely to make a full recovery in 2013, and whether he fits better as a press-man CB or as a hybrid CB/S
- Keep Devin McCourty at FS and don't move him around
- Sign UFA FA SS Kenny Phillips. He would provide the physical safety complement to McCourty that we need, while still being good in coverage and not compromising the deep threat
- Let Patrick Chung walk
2. The DL:
- Armond Armstead has already been signed. The Pats' still have Myron Pryor's rights for 2013, and Marcus Forston has been promoted from the PS. Those 3 alone will be a significant infusion of talent on the DL.
3. The OL:
- Re-sign Sebastian Vollmer if it can be done for reasonable cost (under $6M/year), and hopefully Donald Thomas. If the Pats' can't sign Vollmer to a reasonable deal, they might consider using the franchise or transition tag on him. The franchise tag is estimated at $9.66M, the transition tag at $8.56M. Not my preferred route, but it might allow the Pats to keep Vollmer for another year while developing other options.
4. The WRs and RBs:
- Let Wes Welker walk and sign UFA FA Brian Hartline. It hurts, but the difference in money might free up enough to pick up someone like Kenny Phillips.
- Re-sign Julian Edelman and Danny Woodhead.
- Possible extensions for Brady and Wilfork that might free up some cap space
- Sign RFAs Dane Fletcher, Jake Ballard and Michael Hoomanwanui. Tracy White is a possibility, but is a lesser priority.
- Possibly sign a veteran QB like Matt Cassel or Brian Hoyer, if the price is right
Cleveland trades #6 to St. Louis for #16 and 22. Rams trade up for Eric Fisher. Not a trade directly involving the Pats, but ...
Cleveland trades #16 to New England for QB Ryan Mallett. A last minute draft day trade, with the Browns deciding they don't like the available QB options. They still have a 1st round pick at #22.
New England trades #16 to Tennessee for #40 and their 2014 1st round pick. Bud Adams is impatient, and wants to get better now.
29. DJ Fluker, OL, Alabama. 6'5" 350. Currently NFL DraftScout #28.
Fluker plays RT for Alabama, but would probably move inside to RG, with Dan Connolly moving to center. An OL of Solder-Mankins-Connolly-Fluker-Vollmer would be incredibly powerful. Fluker has the power of Chance Warmack, but he is nimble footed enough to get out in space. He also has incredibly long arms, and the versatility to move to RT in a pinch.
40. Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia. 5'9" 175#. Currently NFL DraftScout #30.
It's evident that the Pats' offense needs more of a speed threat at WR. Austin would be a Percy Harvin/DeSean Jackson kind of weapon: a dynamic speedster who can get separation and accelerate on a dime and take it to the house at any time. Guys like Austin and Jeff Demps could be great weapons in the Pats' up-tempo offense, especially given the blocking TEs and the power running game to balance things out. If defenses go big to try and stop the TEs and the running game then the Pats can shred them with speed.
After the West Virginia-Texas game Bucky Brooks wrote:
West Virginia's Geno Smith shows poise of NFL quarterback - NFL.com
Austin would immediately provide a lot of what the Pats' got from Welker, plus more explosiveness and versatility. Couple him with a couple of bigger outside receivers, and the WR group would look much different.
60. Justin Hunter, WR, Louisiana Tech. 6'4" 200#. Currently NFL DraftScout #66.
Hunter is the kind of big, physical WR that the Pats have lacked for a long time. Along with Brian Hartline, he would give the Pats' WR corps a very different look from what they have had over the past 3 years. They would still have the TEs and the move-based weapons (though with much more explosiveness), but also legitimate outside receiving threats who can move the chains and work the sidelines in Hunter and Hartline. Hunter would also be an excellent red zone threat.
This pick could also be Marcus Wheaton, Quinton Patton or Da'Rick Rogers.
Pats trade #91 and #218 to Cleveland for #101 and #132.
101. Menelik Watson, OT, Florida St. 6'6" 320#. Currently NFL DraftScout #95.
Reid Fragel would also be an option. Either one has a ton of athleticism and upside, and could conceivably be a starting RT in 2014 after a year under Scar's tutelage. I've listed Watson because he is more physical and powerful, and paired with DJ Fluker would give the Pats an incredibly brutal right sided tandem for the future. He's raw as hell, but he's only been playing football for 18 months. Give him another 18 months in Dante's Dancing Academy, and he could be something.
Pats trade #132 and 202 to Minnesota for #149 and 166.
149. Tyrann Mathieu, DB, LSU. 5'9" 178#. Currently NFL DraftScout #181.
If he lasts this long, this is where I would take a flier on a scrappy player like the Honey Bader. We could use some toughness in our secondary. I'm tired of being soft. We need a few thugs in our secondary. This is an about-face for me, but right now, I want some bad asses who will take some shots and send some messages.
Mathieu is undersized and doesn't have elite man coverage skills. But he is a heat seeking missile and ball hawk par extraordinaire who can be moved all around the secondary to create disruption. He's a big risk without a true position and multiple off field issues leading to his dismissal from LSU, but right now we need someone like him. He could excel in a nickel back/slot kind of role.
166. William Campbell, DT, Michigan. 6'5" 318#. Currently NFL DraftScout #202.
Campbell has Michael Brokers/Akiem Hicks size and athleticism, with great strength, and enough quickness and explosiveness to play point guard in basketball games. He also played offensive line for a season for Michigan.
Note that the Pats would have an extra 2014 1st round pick, in addition to their full complement of draft picks.
The 2013 Team:
QB(2): Brady, veteran/Kafka
RB(5): Ridley, Vereen, Woodhead, Bolden, Demps
TE(4): Gronkowski, Hernandez, Ballard, Hoomanawanui
WR(6): Hartline, Lloyd, Austin, Patton, Edelman, Slater
OT(4): Solder, Vollmer, Cannon, Watson
OG/C(5): Mankins, Fluker, Connolly, Wendell, Thomas/McDonald/Zukevics
DT(5): Wilfork, [Armstead], Love, Deaderick, Pryor/Forston, Campbell
DE(6): Jones, Ninkovich, Armstead, Cunningham, Francis, Bequette
LB(5): Mayo, Hightower, Spikes, Fletcher, White/Tarpinian
S(5): McCourty, Phillips, Gregory, Wilson, Ebner
CB(5): Talib/Lewis, Dennard, Dowling, Arrington, Mathieu
ST(3): Gostkowksi, Mesko, Aiken
That's around 56 players, with some room to trim.