Holding the 7th pick in this years draft offers us the luxury of doing many things with this extremely valuable asset. I'm of the opinion that signing a veteran ILB will allow us to really take advantage of this years draft. The options and opportunities abound for us to set ourselves up nicely for the next 5 years if we play the pick properly. Specifically, on the defensive side of the ball. I say this because we are in good shape on offense for the next few years and if youāll recall, much of the 2006 draft was used to address the offensive skill positions (Maroney, Jackson, Thomas) The 2008 draft should be used to do this for the defense. First off, Iām assuming here that we extend Big Vince in the off season in the same way we did with Ty Warren. I believe that Ty had a year left on his rookie contract when we offered him a new deal and I think that the precedent is now set to do this for Vince, a player that BB clearly values and respects. I canāt think of any reason why management would not do this, after doing so for Warren! So, our D line is pretty set, at least in the mid term (2009) There is no denying that we have some issues at ILB and DB, going forward into the 2008 season and it would be logical to assume that BB and SP are focused on addressing some or all of these issues. The real question I suppose is how to best do this? Both Teddy and Junior are both getting up there in age and if we are fortunate enough to win the Super Bowl this year, at least 1 of them and possibly both, are likely to retire. Neither of them need to retire as they can both still contribute in 2008, should they decide to play on. But, the fact is that they have shown their age, particularly after AD was moved outside in the wake of the Colvin injury. This is an area where speed and athleticism are vital and I can't see BB and SP going into the 2008 season with an ILB core that is not younger and faster. I like AD inside, and as Ochmed pointed out in another thread, his move outside has limited the options that BB has in terms of defensive formations. This will be addressed. At ILB, for 2008, we have AD and ???? Colvin still has plenty left in the tank and was playing very well before his injury. I think that Colvins strong play had a really positive effect on how Vrabel played and it seemed like Mike slowed down a bit (at least in the stats) after Colvin got hurt. Colvin has to renegotiate his contract or he's gone. And I think he will. Unless he's unhappy here and wants out, in which case he'll refuse to renegotiate and is outta here. If he does refuse to rework his contract, he's coming off a season ending injury which will affect interest and dollars from other teams, at least to some extent. I say he redoes his deal. At OLB, for 2008, we have Vrabel and Colvin as our starters. Two very good pass rushers. Pretty damn good if you ask me! At corner, Samuels is as good as gone if heās expecting anything near Clements money and his agent has repeatedly said that he is. BB and SP have a dollar value for the corner position that they are willing to live with and I think that Assente has priced himself out of the position for the Pats. Yes, the cap is going up and we will have more money to spend. But, just because we have the money does not mean that management is willing to pay more than they feel the dollar value of the position represents. They wouldnāt do it with Ty Law and I donāt see them doing it here. We will still have Hobbs under contract and whether you are happy with his play or not, he is our most experienced corner when Assante walks. Chad Scott might figure in here too after his season ending injury. Heās a smart, hard working player that BB really likes. If he can bounce back from his injury, heās in the mix. There is a big hole here though, when Assante walks. Who knows, maybe management doesnāt like how losing Assante will affect the defense and they throw a pile of money at him to make him stay? However, I just donāt see it. This is a position screaming for new blood in 2008. Safety is a position Iām not too worried about. I think that Sanders will be given a nice contract this off season that reflects his improvement and current value to the team. It wonāt be for crazy $ but I think that this is one guy that benefits from the salary cap going up in 2008. I also like the way Marriweather has started to come on late in the season and I think that heās only going to get better as he gets more comfortable with the defense. For all the knuckleheads whoāve been screaming about how heās a bust, meet the knuckleheads whoāve been insisting that Maroney was a wasted pick. I will trust BB and SPās player evaluation skills every time. Now some have been saying that Rodney will likely retire if the Pats win it all this year. But, Iām not sure that this is the case. I can see Rodney playing another year or 2 at a pretty high level. He clearly loves the game and is still a force. While he has lost a step, his football smarts more than make up for it. I would actually be surprised he retired after a win in Arizona. Ok. We have the 7th pick in the draft and we have needs at ILB, a legitimate developmental OLB, and at corner. How do we best address these needs? Hereās my thinking. The first thing we ought to do is sign a quality veteran linebacker with experience in the 3-4. Victor Hobson comes to mind, as does Al Wilson. Wilson has recently been given medical clearance to resume his football career. If healthy, boy would he look good in a Pats uniform. Hobson too would do well inside for us and shouldnāt cost too much on a 2 or 3 year deal. Spending money here makes the whole defense better and allows the coaches to scheme the way they prefer to, not have to. By solidifying the ILB position with a quality veteran, we are freed up to really take advantage of the 7th pick and all the options it presents. Before I go on, Iāll ask this question, āis there an ILB in this years draft that you would be comfortable picking at 7? One who would be able to step in and contribute right away? I say no, not even close! How does this sound, āan interior of AD, a solid vet, and a rotation of possibly Teddy or Juniorā? A solid free agent signing here would benefit the entire defence by allowing BB to do run the defenses that were being utilized prior to AD going outside after Colvinsā injury. I think that BB and SP realize this and will put a priority on allocating the funds necessary to sign a quality veteran at the ILB position. Having flexibility in how we play the draft is essential to coming out of it with a couple of potential all pros that can have a big impact on this team for the next 5 years. At least! With the 7th pick, once a quality vet at ILB has been signed, we can then trade down to 10-15 and then pick the best corner available. At the moment there does not appear to be a corner worthy of the 7th overall pick. However, at the combine, someone might jump out with an excellent couple of days in Indy. I like Cason a lot as heās got that natural big play ability we all want. But, not with the 7th pick. Trading down (yes we will need a trade partner but this is not impossible) 3 to 8 slots should net us a second this year or at worst a third? We then pick up our corner of the future at 10-15. With our second pick, + the pick we acquire for trading down, we might have the ability to jump back up into the first round to grab a young linebacker, who will immediately bring some youth and speed to the position With all the experience ahead of him, he would not have to be rushed into action and can learn the notoriously complex defensive system with no pressure on him to produce. Almost like a red shirt year with some special team duty. With our two 3rd rounders, there will still be some good value on the board. Maybe we need to sweeten the pot with one of these 3rds to get back into the first round if someone we really like falls. Even if this is the case, we still have a 3rd to pick another corner or linebacker, adding even more youth to positions where itās needed. The reality here is that only 4 or 5 rookies are going to make the 2008 team so do we really need to draft 8 or 9 players just because we can? Weāve been given a great opportunity with San Fran playing so poorly this year. Who would have predicted the 7th overall pick in 2008 when the deal was made at last years draft? Trying to figure out what BB and SP are going to do at the draft is next to impossible and I fully recognize this. My premise here is simply that by spending the money to sign a quality ILB with 3-4 experience, it will greatly improve our options going into the draft. And having multiple options is the best way I know of hitting a home run or two when youāre on the clock in April. I canāt wait to see what they do!