With the Patriots looking to remain competitive in an ever-improving division they must fill at least a few roster holes in free agency. Due to the loss of a few crucial players, including Tom Brady, the team has a lot to focus on. Here are the six areas of need that the Patriots have to improve before next season
Brady has now made it obvious that he is leaving, which opens the question of who's next. For me, they have one decent option in free agency. For starters, no matter who they go with they will need to select a quarterback early in this year's draft. They have to sign a QB to a relatively short deal, around two years, and cheaper than what Brady would've wanted.
This option may be really controversial, but it could be the smartest option. Philip Rivers had a year similar to Brady's. They both were coming off a year in which they were top five quarterbacks in the league before becoming average at best. Rivers struggles with throwing interceptions, yet would be a perfect bridge QB while the Patriots groom the next guy. We may even see him perform better with a more secure offensive line and run game. He should be relatively cheap and is certainly not the worst option on the table.
The Patriots don't necessarily need another wide receiver, especially with the improvement of the younger guys and if they end up bringing in a tight end. But it would greatly ensure that the passing game is there for whoever is the quarterback next year. You have Edelman as your #1, and hopefully, Harry will find his footing and be at the very least a great #3. You also have Sanu, whos struggles last year were partially due to a nagging injury, that could end up being that #2 guy. But if the Patriots want to build the best receiving core in the league, they have a few options to choose from.
Robby Anderson and Emmanuel Sanders are the high-end options, probably costing a bit over the Patriots budget. But who knows, the Patriots could definitely sign one of the two, especially since they both have been connected to the team multiple times over the year. They both have plenty of experience, which would be helpful when mentoring the younger receivers like Harry and Meyers.
Breshad Perriman would be a cheaper option, but would be a satisfactory addition regardless. He would easily have had 800 yards receiving last year if he didn't have such an inaccurate quarterback throwing to him. He would fit in very well on the Patriots offense, and definitely is the best option in free agency for New England.
This section will be very brief, as I don't believe there is a suitable free-agent tight end for the Patriots this year. Hooper signed with the Browns, and Henry got tagged, leaving only Ebron available. But the Patriots are looking for a great receiving tight end, which Ebron wasn't last year. If I had to predict, I would say the Patriots draft one or two tight ends this year instead.
Ask me two days ago if the defense needed any additions, and I would say no. But we have since seen both starting outside linebackers leave to former Patriots coaches, in Miami and Detroit respectively. The draft could provide maybe one solid starter, but the Patriots realize they have to sign or trade for another. Luckily, there are plenty of options for them.
Joe Schobert and De'Vondre Campbell both have the pass coverage and tackling abilities of Collins, and would be perfect replacements for him. They both have had above 90 tackles for three years in a row, despite only having played four seasons apiece. Schobert and Campbell had a combined six interceptions and 14 passes defended last year, meaning their combined average is the same as Collins last year. This isn't an either-or between the two, but the Patriots will probably look for a pass-rushing outside linebacker as well to replace Van Noy's impact.
And they have even more options in that regard. If you were to sign either Schober or Cambell, that will only give you two out of the 13.5 sacks that the starting outside linebacking unit had last year. Dante Fowler would perfectly make up for it, as he had 11.5 sacks last year. He also isn't terrible at getting into passing lanes, with six passes defended last year. Vic Beasley, Leonard Floyd, or trading for Devon Kennard wouldn't be terrible if they can't get Fowler, leaving Belichick plenty of options to complete an already solid defense.
I don't know about anyone else, but my trust in Gostkowski has fallen greatly over the last couple of years. He had easily the worst year in his career last year, and his injury wasn't the only reason. Belichick will most likely bring in another kicker, at the very least to compete with Gostkowski for the job like they did with Ryan Allen last year. Dan Bailey could be a good veteran option, kicking over 90% for both field goals and extra points. Zane Gonzalez could also be signed, though that is very unlikely thanks to the 2nd round tender placed on him. Whatever they go with though, they have to sort out the kicker position before the next season.