Matt Peterson tracks the offseason needs of every team in the league. Today’s franchise, the New England Patriots [full archive here].
Season Recap – Earning the best record in the NFL at 14-2, New England was the clear selection for most to win the first Super Bowl of the new decade, but an upset loss to the fiery New York Jets in the divisional round killed any shot. New England’s aerial attack led by MVP Tom Brady along with the RB core consisting of the unknown Danny Woodhead and Benjarvis Green-Ellis beat up on opponents all season long, but the Jets found a way to stop them. It was an upset that surely got Tom Brady and the New England Patriots pumped to chase the title in 2011.
1. Defensive End – New England began the offseason by signing recently released veteran Marcus Stroud. Stroud could wind up starting, but he isn’t a long-term solution. The Patriots should look in the first round to fill the void. JJ Watt, Cam Heyward, Cameron Jordan, and Adrian Clayborn all could be available for the Patriots in round one.
2. Outside Linebacker - New England has both inside spots locked down with Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes but still lacks on the outside. The Patriots haven’t had a great OLB since they traded away Mike Vrabel two seasons ago. Jermaine Cunningham and Rob Ninkovich showed some promise but there are doubts if they can be full season starters. With 7 picks in the first four rounds, the Patriots can fill the void in the draft.
3. Wide Receiver – With the absence of the deep threat Randy Moss, Wes Welker’s production fell tremendously. Brandon Tate did a decent job but he isn’t a preferable starter. New England needs to select a burner on the outside. Some think with all their ammunition, New England could trade up and make a run for AJ Green or Julio Jones.
4. Running Back – Woodhead and Green-Ellis played spectacular, but frankly the Patriots could find better talent. Woodhead should remain the third down back, but New England ought to find a better option on first and second downs. Mark Ingram would make sense.
5. Offensive Line – The offensive line has always been a strong position for New England, but age is beginning to become a concern. Guard Stephen Neal retired, Matt light is a free agent, and Dan Koppen is turning 32. New England can address the unit through the middle rounds of the draft.