WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2014 NFL draft. Here is one in a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’€™s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

Ahmad Dixon (AP)

Ahmad Dixon (left) is a hard-hitting safety who showed some positional versatility during his time at Baylor. (AP)

AHMAD DIXON

Position: Strong safety

School: Baylor

Height: 6-foot-0

Weight: 212 pounds

Achievements: 2013 Sporting News, AFCA first-team All-American, 2013 unanimous first-team All-Big 12, 2012, 2011 All-Big 12 honorable mention

What he brings: Dixon has solid speed and good size for his position, and he’s known as an aggressive tackler. Analysts note that he needs to work toward a better vision and understanding of the game. At the scouting combine, he was timed at 4.64 in the 40-yard dash, 7.54 in the 3-cone drill and 12.01 in the 60-yard shuttle. He improved on all three numbers at Baylor’s pro day on March 19, producing a 4.52 dash, a 7.28 3-cone and an 11.16 shuttle.

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 3-5

Notes: Dixon was arrested after he allegedly assaulted a man who Dixon believed broke into his house. He was cleared of the charges by a grand jury in December. … Dixon was ejected from a game and suspended from half a game during the 2013 season after he was called for targeting during Baylor’€™s contest against TCU on Nov. 30. Dixon played at nickelback during his sophomore and junior seasons before settling in at safety as a senior.

Related articles:

ESPN.com: NFL combine is key for former Big 12 stars

DallasCowboys.com: Ahmad Dixon sees Williams like family, big brother

Video: Here is a video highlighting Dixon’s career at Baylor

Blog Author: 
Meredith Perri
Sammy Watkins is regarded as the top wide receiver in the draft. (AP)

Clemson’s Sammy Watkins is regarded as the top wide receiver in the draft. (AP)

With the initial wave of free agency now complete — and a couple of notable trades and releases in the books — here’€™s our first post-free agency mock.

1. Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DL, South Carolina – There’€™s still talk about the Texans taking a quarterback — talk continues to persist that Houston will trade out of the top spot — but the chance to land a potentially transformative defensive presence like Clowney is likely too great to pass up. If they stick at No. 1 and go with Clowney, there will be a few intriguing quarterbacking possibilities for Houston at the start of the second round.

2. Rams: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn – The best offensive tackle in the draft — in a landmark year for tackles — goes off the board early.

3. Jaguars: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida – The Jags take the closest thing to a hometown boy and top-shelf QB they can find. At the same time, it wouldn’€™t be a shocker to see them chase after Manziel at No. 3.

4. Browns: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville Pro days are overrated. Bridgewater will sit for a spell behind Brian Hoyer, but will get his chance to be the starter sooner rather than later.

5. Raiders: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson – With the Raiders landing Matt Schaub — and Bortles and Bridgewater off the board — that presumably takes them out of the quarterback sweepstakes, at least for this year. Besides, the speed of Watkins will likely be too great for the Raiders to resist.

6. Falcons: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo – No moves here, as the best defensive player available goes to Atlanta.

7. Buccaneers: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan – Some red flags because of a recent off-field incident may cause some concerns, but the Bucs roll the dice and go with Lewan ahead of Jake Matthews.

8. Vikings: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M – Manziel drops a bit because of the recent AFC quarterback shuffle, but if he isn’€™t taken No. 3 by the Jags, he won’€™t get past Minnesota.

9. Bills: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M – Buffalo is going to make it back-to-back Aggies — the only question is whether it’€™s Evans or Matthews. We’€™re going with Evans at this spot.

10. Lions: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State As we said with our second mock draft, the best corner in the draft goes to a team in need of help in the secondary.

11. Titans: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M – You get an Aggie, and you get an Aggie, and you get an Aggie! The Titans do have some options here — they could grab a quarterback, if one of them falls, or maybe chase after David Carr. But the safe play here is Matthews.

12. Giants: Aaron Donald, DL, Pitt – To this point, we’€™ve mocked a series of offensive linemen to the Giants with the No. 12 pick, but the recent loss of Justin Tuck, Donald’€™s terrific performance in the pre-draft process and some other personnel moves (including the fact that they could probably get a pretty good offensive lineman in the second round) caused us to go in another direction here.

13. Rams: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama – Provided the Rams land wide receiver Kenny Britt, the next logical move here is to beef up the secondary with an elite defensive back like Dix who could serve as a good complimentary presence to someone like T.J. McDonald.

14. Bears: Timmy Jernigan, DL, Florida State – Jernigan has a fairly raw skill set, but figures to have a colossal upside.

15. Steelers: Louis Nix III, DL, Notre Dame Pittsburgh could use some help at other spots, but Nix is too big a talent to pass up at this spot.

16. Ravens: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina – So many possibilities here for the Ravens, who could also use some help up front defensively. But Ebron is too good to pass on here.

17. Cowboys: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA – Dallas lost DeMarcus Ware, and while Barr doesn’€™t bring the same kind of heat, he could develop into a pretty good pass rusher. They could also go after Jernigan or Donald if either one are still there at No. 17.

18. Jets:  Marqise Lee, WR, USC – Some of this depends on how the DeSean Jackson situations shakes out — if they are able to land him, they’€™ll likely be more inclined to go for a tight end — maybe Ebron, if he’€™s still around. Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin is also a possibility.

19. Dolphins: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame In the wake of acquiring Branden Albert, Miami continues it’€™s rebuild up front with the best young tackle on the board.

20. Cardinals: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri – We’€™ve gone back and forth at this spot, and there are a few different possibilities for the Cards here, but Ealy makes too much sense. Arizona could also go for a cornerback at this spot (maybe Michigan State‘€™s Darqueze Dennard or Jason Verrett of TCU), or another pass catcher to compliment Larry Fitzgerald.

21. Packers: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech – Green Bay needs a tight end, and Amaro is the best of the bunch at this point.

22. Eagles: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville It’€™s all about secondary help for the Eagles, who are going to go after the best defensive back available. Look for them to get Pryor or Dennard.

23. Chiefs: Odell Beckham, WR, LSU – Kansas City needs a field-stretcher, and Beckham makes the most sense at this point, especially because it looks like the Chiefs are out of the DeSean Jackson Sweepstakes.

24. Bengals: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU – The Bengals could ponder the possibility of Auburn’€™s Dee Ford as a potential replacement for Michael Johnson, but Verrett’€™s presence means a min-run on defensive backs continues.

25. Chargers: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State San Diego needs to bolster the secondary, and Dennard is the best remaining corner on the board.

26. Browns (from the Colts): Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State – If there’€™s a team who might be inclined to go for a running back, it’€™s the Browns (Ohio State’€™s Carlos Hyde is probably the only RB worthy of a first round pick this year), but instead, they’€™ll go for his college teammate at No. 26.

27. Saints: Dee Ford, DE, Auburn – Best available defensive end for a team that needs to fill that position.

28. Panthers: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State – Carolina will be looking for the best available pass catcher, and in this scenario, it’€™s Benjamin, who appears to have massive boom-bust potential.

29. Patriots: Ra’€™Shede Hageman, DL, Minnesota – Even with some resolution to the Vince Wilfork contract flap, we’€™ve been consistent in our belief that Hageman is the best fit for the Patriots if they end up sticking at No. 29, and we’€™re going to stick with him here. However, keep two names in mind — UCLA offensive lineman Xavier Su’€™a-Filo and Benjamin are also possibilities. (Again, provided they stick at 29. New England is one of the leading contenders to trade down, and this year is no exception.)

30. Niners: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State – San Francisco needs another target in the passing game for Colin Kaepernick, and Cooks is the best available pass catcher on the board.

31. Broncos: Xavier Su’€™a-Filo, OL, UCLA – Denver could go a few different ways, including another receiver to try and replace Eric Decker, who left as a free agent. (Cooks is a possibility if he’€™s still available, or Jarvis Landry of LSU.) But Su’€™a-Filo, a versatile presence who has been climbing draft boards for much of the post-combine process, could step in and replace Zane Beadles.

32. Seahawks: Morgan Moses, T, Virginia – The Broncos need to address a few spots, including tackle (with the departure of Breno Giacomini) and wide receiver (for added depth). Moses has been mentioned by many as a possible Day 1 starter at right tackle for the defending Super Bowl champs. (Seattle could be a trade candidate for a team looking to get one of the available quarterbacks at the end of the first round.)

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2014 NFL draft. Here is one is a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’€™s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

Marcus Roberson (AP)

Marcus Roberson (right) struggled with injuries at Florida, missing five games in 2013, and did not impress at the combine. (AP)

MARCUS ROBERSON

Position: Cornerback

School: Florida

Height: 6-foot-0

Weight: 191 pounds

Achievements: 2012 AP All-SEC second team

What he brings: A good-sized corner, Roberson is a tough, physical player who has good ability and instincts. While he can get too reliant on his frame and commit infractions down the field, Roberson presents as an ideal corner for the NFL. However, his 4.61 40-yard dash at the scouting combine is a concern, showing a lack of top-end speed. And while Roberson is willing to tackle, he lacks ideal strength and can get manhandled in the run game. Roberson only benched 225 pounds eight times at the combine. Roberson also has injury concerns, battling ankle and knee injuries throughout his time at Florida.

Where the Patriots could get him: Round 2

Notes: Roberson missed five games as a junior in 2013 due to injury. He finished with 11 tackles and three pass breakups. He only had three career interceptions. … Roberson was arrested for underage drinking in September 2011. He also was suspended for a game in 2013 for violating team rules.

Related articles:

Orlando Sentinel: Florida CB Marcus Roberson facing underage drinking charge

CBSSports: 2014 Pro Days: Roberson, Purifoy still slow at soggy Florida workout

Video: Here are Roberson’€™s 2013 highlights against Toledo.

Blog Author: 
Arjuna Ramgopal
Left tackle Nate Solder is one of a handful of Patriots starters who are set to be a part of free agency next year. (AP)

Left tackle Nate Solder is one of a handful of Patriots starters who are set to be a part of free agency next year. (AP)

1. With all of the Patriots’€™ big-ticket free agent items accounted for, it’€™s worth turning our attention to who might be next in line to receive a new deal. Here are eight notable contracts that are up at the end of the 2014 season.

a) Darrelle Revis — Well, he won’€™t really be a free agent, but there’€™s a very good chance we’€™ll all be back here next offseason debating what to do with the corner. There’€™s an option year for the Patriots in 2015 that would total $20 million, but if Revis has a good 2014, it wouldn’€™t be a surprise to see both sides try and find some common ground on a new deal going forward.

b) Dan Connolly — The 31-year-old Connolly, who has been a regular member of New England’€™s offensive line (at guard or center) since 2010, is entering the final year of a three-year deal he signed in the spring of 2012.

c) Stephen Gostkowski — The kicker has been very steady since taking over for you-know-who in 2006 (it’€™s hard to believe Gostlowski be entering his ninth season in the NFL in 2014), but is going into the final year of a five-year contract he signed in 2010.

d) Nate Solder — The left tackle will be a free agent following the 2014 season, as it represents the final year of a four-year rookie contract he inked in 2011. For what it’€™s worth, this offseason was a robust market for tackles — it will be interesting to see what sort of market will greet Solder if he gets to next offseason without a new deal from New England.

e) Stevan Ridley — With the departure of LeGarette Blount in free agency, it now appears that the running back will have his chance to make a statement in a contract season. If he tops the 1,000-yard mark for the second time in three seasons, he could stand to make a handsome payday. If he struggles with ball security, he could find a softer than expected market for his services.

f) Shane Vereen — If Vereen can stay healthy, he’€™ll have a terrific opportunity to prove his multidimensional worth in a key year. Despite missing most of the year with a wrist injury, in 2013 he was just the third Patriots running back in a decade to finish a year with at least 40 catches and 40 carries in a season.

g) Ryan Mallett — The Patriots backup quarterback has been the subject of some trade talk — the Texans inquired about him earlier this offseason. It remains debatable what sort of asking price New England would have if someone engaged the Patriots in serious trade talks this year for Mallett.

h) Devin McCourty — One of the most important of the bunch, according to ESPN, there’€™s been no movement on a new deal for McCourty, who is up after the 2014 season. His steadiness, durability, versatility and smarts have made him an indispensable member of the New England defense.

2. Details of the new deal signed by Vince Wilfork started to emerge Saturday, and it appears to be a heavily incentivized contract that bears some similarities to the deal that offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer signed a year ago with the team. According to Albert Breer of NFL Media, the contract includes a base salary of $1.3 million and a $1.3 million signing bonus. There are a series of bonuses in place that include playtime percentages, as well as some incentives tied to the success of the team and the defense as a whole. Per ESPN, here’€™s how it all breaks down for 2014:

– If he plays 60 percent of the defensive snaps: bonus of $1.25 million
– If he plays 70 percent of the defensive snaps: bonus of $2 million
– If he plays 70 percent of the defensive snaps and team makes the divisional round of the playoffs, he makes $2.5 million
– In addition, if Wilfork plays 70 percent of the defensive snaps and the team is top 10 in points allowed, he earns $500,000.

There’€™s also a $300,000 weight clause and a $200,000 workout bonus. In addition, there’€™s a $500,000 bonus for being on the 53-man roster for the first game of the 2014 regular season (in truth, it’€™s an incentive to make sure the Achilles’€™ injury he suffered last year doesn’€™t have him start the year on PUP) and a $87,500 per-game bonus for each game on the 46-man game day roster. All told, it’€™s a deal that could make him as much as $8 million in 2014 if he (and the team) hit all the incentives in the deal.

3. There are many layers to the DeSean Jackson situation, but when it comes to how it all relates to the Patriots, from this viewpoint, it would be surprising if New England went after him as a potential free agent pickup. Jackson is an transformative offensive talent, but he will bring a tremendous amount of baggage with him wherever he lands. Even if the report about alleged gang ties proves to be false, in the post-Aaron Hernandez era, it would seem to be a leap for New England to take a chance on a player who has been dogged by so many questions. (That doesn’€™t even begin to take into account the financial ramifications of going after a player who will likely cost plenty — even though the Patriots have created some financial flexibility for themselves with the new deal for Wilfork, Jackson will likely have a hefty price tag.) New England has made a habit of making some surprise personnel moves over the last decade, but it would be a really big one if the Patriots went after Jackson. As for how it all plays out on the national stage, the process will likely take a few weeks, and a look at some of the current rosters suggests that teams like the Jets, Panthers, Raiders, Redskins and Chiefs should be heavily involved. (Multiple reports confirm that Jackson will visit with Washington on Monday.)

4. One of the truly interesting exchanges of Bill Belichick‘€™s Q&A with the media earlier this week at the owners’€™ meetings came when he was quizzed on a growing trend among college offenses — operating without a playbook. The most notable program to go without a playbook has been Baylor, who instead used signals to players, who had individual assignments. “€œIt’€™s come up more and more,” Belichick said when asked about what sort of challenge it is to work with players who came from that sort of system. “I’€™m not saying they can’€™t do it. It’€™s just that in some cases, they haven’€™t done it. You’€™re teaching a player a concept. We call a play within that play, 11 people know what to do. In a lot of cases, that’€™s not what they’€™re doing now. So yeah. And I’€™d say that’€™s a relatively new thing for me. I haven’€™t seen that, but it’€™s come up more and more in … I’€™d say the last two, three years, particularly this year, more so. That’€™s become more — I don’€™t want to say prevalent, but more common. I’€™d say five years ago, I’€™d never heard of that. Now, it’€™s more common.”

5. Another overlooked aspect of Belichick’€™s Q&A with the media this week was the fact that it gave him the first opportunity to comment publicly on the hiring of new offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo. DeGuglielmo replaces longtime assistant Dante Scarnecchia, and while the Lexington native will have the benefit of coming into a situation where the Patriots will be able to roll out the same five starting offensive linemen they’€™ve had the last two seasons, the changeover from Scarnecchia to DeGuglielmo will be worth watching. “I like Dave,”€ Belichick said of the BU product who has also worked with the Jets, Dolphins and Giants. “He has some familiarity with our system, he’€™s done a good job and I’€™m glad we have him. Dante did a great job for us as well. It’€™s still different, not having him around, but this isn’€™t the first time we’€™ve lost a staff member, and I’€™m sure it won’€™t be the last.”€ One coach who will likely be helping DeGuglielmo is offensive assistant Brian Daboll, who has appeared to work with several different aspects of the team on the offensive side of the ball since returning to Foxboro last year. “€œHopefully, our entire coaching staff is working closely together, that’€™s what we’€™re trying to do,”€ Belichick said when asked about DeGuglielmo getting help from Daboll. “€œEverything’€™s connected to everything — the center is connected to the quarterback is connected to the receiver. They’€™re all connected in some way. So it all needs to work together (and) connect together somehow. Hopefully that’€™s what (will) happen.”

6. With the first wave of free agency in the books, here’€™s a status report on New England’€™s free agent class of 2014:

Long snapper Danny Aiken: Signed a one-year deal to return to New England.
Running back LeGarrette Blount: Signed a two-year deal with Pittsburgh.
Defensive end Andre Carter: Free agent, but has expressed an interest in returning.
Wide receiver Austin Collie: Free agent.
Wide receiver Julian Edelman: Signed a four-year contract to return to New England.
Linebacker Dane Fletcher: Signed a one-year deal with Tampa Bay.
Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui: Signed a two-year deal to return to New England.
Tight end Matthew Mulligan: Free agent, although league sources indicate he’€™d welcome a return to the Patriots.
Linebacker Brandon Spikes: Signed a one-year deal with Buffalo.
Offensive lineman Will Svitek: Free agent, although like Mulligan, league sources indicate he’€™d welcome a return to the Patriots.
Cornerback Aqib Talib: Signed a six-year deal with Denver.
Center Ryan Wendell: Signed a two-year deal to return to New England.

7. At the league meetings this past week, Niners coach Jim Harbaugh talked about the chance to sit and talk with Julian Edelman during Edelman’€™s free agent visit with San Francisco. Edelman ended up re-signing with the Patriots, but for Harbaugh, it was an “honor”€ to speak with Edelman, a former college quarterback who has successful made the transition to the NFL level. According to the San Francisco coach — a former NFL quarterback himself — it was an opportunity to get a better sense of the learning curve that someone like Edelman faces when he arrives at the pro level. (Reading between the lines, it also provided a glimpse into the evolution of Edelman as a wide receiver.) “He explained it to me, just how tough it is to go from being a college receiver to a pro receiver trying now to defeat press coverage (and) have a plan for that,”€ Harbaugh said of his conversation with Edelman. “€œNow once you finally have beaten it, to then get back to be in your spot or where you’€™re supposed to be in the route and then think about catching the football. Just how difficult that is. That understanding and putting it all together doesn’€™t really happen until Year 3 or 4, to be able to beat the press and beat the bump without thinking about it, having that plan but not thinking about it, having the experience of getting open and catching the ball and doing all those things.”

8. While much has been made of the arms race between the Patriots and Broncos in a chase for supremacy in the AFC, the rest of last year’€™s playoff teams have done their fair share of loading up, including the Colts. The AFC South champs, who suffered a loss to New England in the divisional playoff round at Gillette, have added wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, and figure to have tight end Dwayne Allen and wide receiver Reggie Wayne back from injury. That group joins the emerging Andrew Luck at quarterback and wide receiver T.Y. Hilton. While running back is still a question, as it stands right now, they remain the class of the AFC South. At the owners’€™ meetings this past week, Colts coach Chuck Pagano was asked about the challenge of trying to keep up with the Patriots and Broncos. “We have to play both of those teams, so it certainly poses a problem for not only us, but everybody else has to play them. Everybody is chasing the same goal. Everybody is chasing the Lombardi, so everybody is going to do what they feel like they have to do to improve their team and make that push and that run for that ultimate goal,”€ Pagano said. “Coach (John) Fox did a great job and they did acquire a bunch of talent. New England did acquire a couple of proven cover guys. It’€™s going to make for a competitive season.”

9. In that same vein, Baltimore coach John Harbaugh is in much the same boat as Pagano and the Colts. While the Patriots and Broncos load up for another run at a title, Baltimore has made some tweaks, picking up veteran receiver Steve Smith and center Jeremy Zuttah and retaining most of their free agents as well, including tight end Dennis Pitta, wide receiver Jacoby Jones and left tackle Eugene Monroe. However, Harbaugh smirked when asked about the offseason dollars that were shelled out by New England and Denver. “€œI was disappointed with the moves that the Broncos and Patriots made in the offseason. What more can I say?”€ he asked. “€œI thought they did a great job — and that disturbed me. We’€™ll find out. The proof is in the pudding. But obviously they’€™ve added some pieces. I think both of those teams do a great job. They make great decisions, they’€™ve very particular with who they add and they add the player they need in the spot they need. It seems they draft that way as well. You’€™ve got to applaud what they’€™ve done. But we’€™ll play games in the fall and see how it plays out.”

10. It hasn’€™t been much of a surprise, but when Brandon Spikes signed with the Bills, you figure that his Twitter game was going to go to the next level now that he was out of New England, but the linebacker really went off on Saturday. After the news broke that running back Ray Rice married his fiancee Friday — the same woman he allegedly knocked unconscious in an Atlantic City casino earlier this year — Spikes went on a Twitter spree against Rice, who was indicted on third-degree aggravated assault charges for the attack. Among other things, Spikes wrote, “€œSomeone should choke (Rice) out. See how he likes it” and added, “€œThat’€™s him trying to save his image.” The Ravens aren’€™t scheduled to face the Bills this season, but the occasionally combustible linebacker has likely stirred up some ill will between the two teams that figures to be addressed the next time he faces Rice and Baltimore.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2014 NFL draft. Here is one is a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’€™s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

C.J. Mosley (AP)

Linebacker C.J. Mosley had back-to-back 100-tackle seasons at Alabama in 2012 and ’13. (AP)

C.J. MOSLEY

Position: Inside linebacker

School: Alabama

Height: 6-foot-2

Weight: 234 pounds

Achievements: 2013, 2012 consensus All-American, 2013, 2012 first-team All-SEC, 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year, 2013 Butkus Award, 2010 Freshman All-American

What he brings: Mosley is a mix of great athleticism with good speed, strength and size and smarts. Highly thought of as a leader of the Crimson linebacking corps, Mosley gets rave reviews for his intelligence and keen awareness. There aren’t a lot of negatives with Mosley, but some scouts see inconsistencies regarding his tackling technique.

Where the Patriots could get him: Round 1, likely requiring a trade to move up

Notes: Mosley had 108 tackles, nine tackles for loss and one forced fumble during the 2013 season. He had 107 tackles, eight tackles for loss, four sacks and two interceptions in 2012. … Mosley dislocated his elbow in 2011, his sophomore year, and missed two games.

Related articles:

USA Today: Alabama LB C.J. Mosley could be NFL draft‘s silent star

NFL.com: Butkus: Team that drafts C.J. Mosley will be pretty damn lucky

Alabama.com: C.J. Mosley says he has no medical ‘red flags,’ could be Alabama’s 1st player selected in NFL draft

Video: Here are Mosley’€™s 2013 highlights with Alabama.

Blog Author: 
Arjuna Ramgopal
Expect Stevan Ridley's workload to increase in 2014. (AP)

Expect Stevan Ridley’s workload to increase in 2014. (AP)

The departure of LeGarrette Blount to the Steelers means there will be more on the plate of Stevan Ridley in 2014, who now appears likely to return to his role as the closest thing the New England offense has to a featured back. Meanwhile, Shane Vereen figures to work in a change up role as the third down option and pass catcher out of the backfield, and Brandon Bolden will stick in his role as all-purpose backup.

But is there a need to bring in another body for depth? While running back isn’t considered an overwhelming priority for the Patriots (there are other greater areas of need, at least at this stage of the team-building process), it wouldn’t be a surprise for them to address it with a mid-round pickup in the draft, especially considering the fact that the bargain basement has been pretty much picked over, at least at this point. (The best options right now are probably Andre Brown, Michael Bush and Justin Forsett, as well as broken-down editions of Felix Jones, Ronnie Brown and Willis McGahee.)

With the understanding that the Patriots would be targeting a guy like that no earlier than the third day of the draft because of other areas of greater need, here are three backs who might be available to the Patriots this year as mid- to late-round possibilities:

a) Storm Johnson, Central Florida – A multidimensional back who has already drawn the attention of the Patriots — the 6-foot, 209-pounder was one of a handful of players who went through a workout for the Patriots’ brain trust when they were in Florida this past week for the league meetings — last season he had 1,139 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground to go along with 30 catches for 260 yards and three receiving touchdowns.

b) Andre Williams, Boston College Remarkably, the 5-foot-11, 230-pounder led the nation in rushing last year for the Eagles, ending up with 2,177 rushing yards (best in the nation) and becoming a Heisman finalist as a result. At the combine, he fully acknowledged the fact that he needs to improve when it comes to his work in pass protection as well as a receiver out of the backfield, but his colossal yardage total from last year will almost certainly make him attractive to someone.

c) Bishop Sankey, Washington – A little on the smaller side, like Johnson, this 5-foot-9, 209-pounder offers value in the passing game as well as the running game. Last season, he ran for 1,870 yards for a 5.7 average and 20 touchdowns to go along with 28 catches for 304 yards and one touchdown.

Of course, this doesn’t begin to take into account what the Patriots do at the kick return spot in 2014. Blount’s departure could open the door for any number of possibilities on special teams, including Josh Boyce, Devin McCourty or collegian Jeremy Gallon, who had a private workout for New England special teams coach Scotty O’Brien earlier this week in Ann Arbor. While the different looks that the three backs present should be enough to keep opposing defensive coordinators on their toes in 2014, it’s clear the Patriots do need to address the position going forward, especially considering the fact that Vereen and Ridley are heading into the final year of their rookie deals. Certainly a spot to watch going forward this offseason for New England.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2014 NFL draft. Here is one in a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’€™s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

Deone Bucannon (AP)

Deone Bucannon was a three-time captain at Washington State. (AP)

DEONE BUCANNON

Position: Strong safety

School: Washington State

Height: 6-foot-1

Weight: 211 pounds

Achievements: Associated Press and Athlon Sports 2013 first-team All-American, 2013 College Football Performance Awards Elite Defensive Back, 2013 first-team All-Pac-12, 2013 Jim Thorpe award semifinalist

What he brings: The three-time captain impressed with the power that allowed him to lead the Pac-12 in tackles during the 2013 season. Analysts warn, though, that he is stiff in the hips, something that causes problems when he missteps while tracking down an opponent.

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 2-3

Notes: Bucannon was a top performer in the 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical jump and broad jump at the combine. … He has the second-most solo tackles with 268 and the fourth-most tackles overall with 348 in Washington State history. … Bucannon was suspended for the first half of a game in 2012 after a late hit against Eastern Washington.

Related articles:

The Seattle Times: Ex-WSU safety Deone Bucannon’s draft stock is rising

ESPN.com: Bucannon ready for NFL combine

Video: Here is a video highlighting Bucannon’s junior and senior seasons at Washington State

Blog Author: 
Meredith Perri

The Patriots have re-signed center Ryan Wendell to a two-year deal, according to ESPN Boston. Wendell, a 28-year-old out of Fresno State, has started every game over the last two seasons for the Patriots.

Earlier this offseason, the Pats brought back long-snapper Danny Aiken on a one-year deal. Their only remaining free agent along the offensive line is Will Svitek, who appeared in 13 games last season.

The Patriots have re-signed center Ryan Wendell to a two-year deal, according to ESPN Boston. Wendell, a 28-year-old out of Fresno State, has started every game over the last two seasons for the Patriots.

Earlier this offseason, the Pats brought back long-snapper Danny Aiken on a one-year deal. Their only remaining free agent along the offensive line is Will Svitek, who appeared in 13 games last season.

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WEEI

Former Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount has agreed to a two-year deal with the Steelers, according to the National Football Post. Blount reportedly visited with the Steelers on Friday and never left.