Patriots free agency primer-Defense

Here’s what New England needs to compete for a Super Bowl Championship next year:

Keep Darrelle Revis on a longer term, more cap friendly deal; keep Revis, Gronk and Brady healthy, at least so they will be at the end of next season and…

…that’s it, simple as that!!

OK, maybe also acquire low-cost depth across all other positions, specifically both offensive and defensive lines.

But that about sums it up.

Oh, and have Rex Ryan chase after (Josh McCown) and/or land (Matt Cassel) mediocre quarterbacks and have the rest of the AFC East continue its ineptitude doesn’t hurt either.

I suppose we can get a little more specific.  And we will.  We’ll start with the defensive side of the ball.  Simply because Revis is clearly the most important piece that needs to be addressed.

Defensive End:

Under contract:  Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones, Dominique Easley, Zach Moore, Michael Buchanan, Jake Bequette

Free agents:  Akeem Ayers

Thoughts:  Ninkovich played more snaps than any defensive lineman in the NFL last year.  This fact still blows my mind.  I like him, but I’ve said for a couple years now that I’d love for him to be a kind of that “3rd pass rusher”.  Have him back up the 2 starters and play a little situational linebacker and still be on the field a great deal.  Acquire more of a pure pass rusher, even though he has performed pretty well in the role that they ask him to.  Putting him in that role is unlikely to happen though, especially considering the paycheck.  But I’d still like a strong 3rd pass rushing option to group with Ninkovich and Jones at the very least.  I wouldn’t break the bank on this position though.

Maybe it’s Easley, but he may play more DT…and can you even count on that anyway, with his injury history?  Moore seems far away still.  Not convinced it’s either Buchanan or Bequette.  Still trying to figure out why Jake is still here.  I put Ayers in this group because it seems that once Jones came back from injury last year, Ayers stopped playing.  Seems Akeem got a lot of Chandler’s reps then.  Liked what I saw when he was playing.  But I expect him to get more cash elsewhere.  Maybe it’s a draft pick.  But I’d add some better depth here, at a low cost.

Defensive Tackle:

Under contract:  Chris Jones, Joe Vellano, Antonio Johnson

Free agents:  Vince Wilfork, Sealver Siliga, Alan Branch

Thoughts:  This is by far the biggest need for the Patriots, in my estimation.  It’s quite obvious actually, when you look at the bodies above.  Highlighted by the Wilfork move today.  Big Vince had an $8 million option.  I wouldn’t have exercised it either.  He had a decent year, by all accounts.  But he is not the same guy as he once was…an understatement, I know.  And the Big Man does not like to renegotiate.  So this was probably the best solution.  Personally, I’d be surprised if Vince was back.  I would bet that the Pats approached him about a renegotiation and he said no.  And after the contract haggles in the past, both sides probably determined that a clean split was best.  Some team will overpay him a little, especially for the “leadership” angle.  But as sad as it is, I am ok with it.  Siliga is actually a restricted free agent, so he will likely be back.  Branch may find better riches elsewhere.  As good as a piece as he was down the stretch, he can be replaced.

If I’m the Pats, I make a significant free agent move here first.  You can forget Ndamukong Suh.  But there has to be another somewhat big name or two who would come here for a decent paycheck.  Add some depth in the draft, as well as lower tier free agents and that would be a good start.

Linebacker:

Under contract:  Jerod Mayo, Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Cameron Gordon, Darius Fleming, Eric Martin, Deontae Skinner, Rufus Johnson

Free agents:  Chris White, Jonathan Casillas, James Morris

Thoughts:  Kind of lumping them all together here, inside and outside linebackers, because in recent history the Patriots have had a few starters and all the backups have been essentially special teamers.  Also, these linebackers seem to move around a bit, and the team seems to have more 4-2-5 defensive alignments, so let’s just do it this way.

The most pressing issue here seems to be what to do with Mayo.  He has the 3rd highest cap number on the team at $10,287,500 (if Revis departs for good, it will be 2nd highest) and has missed the majority of the last 2 seasons due to injury.  Hightower seemed to flourish once Mayo was out this year and was forced into his role.  Hightower and Collins both need to play often.

I’d love to have Mayo back.  For one reason, even if the Pats play more of a 4-2-5 alignment, all 3 of the LB’s can be on the field where either Collins or Hightower is more of a pass rusher.  For another reason, the depth at the position is putrid, as you can clearly see.  The easy thing would be for Jerod to take a pay cut.  But will he?  Have they even approached him?  I am not sure what the team is thinking here.  This will be interesting to see as the next week unfolds.

The rest of the selection seems to be that special teams group.  Good enough.  Wouldn’t be surprised to see both White and Casillas back.  Morris is actually an exclusive rights free agent, so he will be in the mix, for whatever that will be worth.  To me, what they do with Mayo is the only thing to watch here.

Cornerback:

Under contract:  Brandon Browner, Kyle Arrington, Logan Ryan, Malcolm Butler, Alfonzo Dennard, Daxton Swanson, Justin Green

Free agents:  Darrelle Revis

Thoughts:  Putting Revis in the free agent box because there is no way the organization gives him 20 mil this year with a 25 mil cap number.  They CAN do it, but shedding a few more bodies from the roster other than Vince, but WILL they?  Unlikely.  This is the only move to talk about here.  The Patriots have plenty of other bodies at the position and they are all capable to some degree.  But having Revis at the top of the depth chart moves all these guys into appropriate levels and sets them up in a better position to succeed.  The team absolutely must do everything it can to keep him here.  Sets everything else up perfectly.  Not only the cornerbacks, but the whole secondary…and you could argue the defense as a whole as well.  This is a no-brainer.  The Pats cannot nickel and dime him.  Give him a fair salary that he will accept, or else he goes to the highest bidder.  Not more difficult than that.  There are no other moves here.

Safety:

Under contract:  Patrick Chung, Tavon Wilson, Duron Harmon, Nate Ebner

Free agents:  Devin McCourty

Thoughts:  I will allow for the fact that the remaining group after McCourty looks wafer thin…and that may be being kind.  But I have to say that I am ok with them not franchising Devin.  A lot of money for a guy at that position that isn’t necessarily a difference maker.  Look, McCourty is a fine player.  And I would like to see him back on a reasonable deal, where he still makes himself some coin.  But I don’t know if I’m comfortable paying him at the top of the market.  For his role in the defense anyway, as well as the fact that the money could be better spent elsewhere, in my opinion.

To me, Revis is the key to the secondary.  I know, that is going out on a limb.  But the team can make do without Devin, I trust that.  Not with only the current group of course.  Maybe a high draft pick and an established veteran or two, someone at a lower pay scale than McCourty.  Not to mention, maybe one of the cornerbacks can switch to safety.  Devin took a step back his second year at CB and so did Logan Ryan in his 2nd year last year.  Maybe he switches to safety?  I just feel like there are better options than unloading a Brinks truck on McCourty’s yard, if that is what he is looking for.

Punter:

Under contract:  Ryan Allen

Free agents:  None

Thoughts:  None really, it’s the punter.  Allen is good enough and is fine at holding for kicks, while we are at it.  If the team feels it needs to upgrade, fine with me.  But either way, I am not losing sleep over this position.

 

 

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About mpdenton

I am a passionate and life long fan of the local teams...and by local I mean New England. I remember the days of Ray Bourque, Larry Bird, Steve Grogan and Wade Boggs...meaning I have lived the highs and lows of the Boston sports scene. With all this pent up Boston sports emotion, I clearly have a lot to say about the local teams and sometimes about sports in general. Maybe even the Revolution... I appreciate you reading my blog and hope you enjoy my rants.

Posted on March 5, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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