It appears Darrelle Revis will be wearing his customary No. 24 with the Patriots.

The Patriots have begun selling the jersey on their website this week, and the Patriots Pro Shop tweeted Tuesday that you can order a No. 24 Revis jersey, which will be shipped in one to three weeks.

The number became available after the team released veteran safety Adrian Wilson. Revis has worn the No. 24 since he was drafted by the Jets out of Pitt in 2007.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

FOXBORO — Rob Ninkovich talked about the additions of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner on Tuesday morning, but also addressed a handful of other topics, including the return of Vince Wilfork, the loss of coach Pepper Johnson and some of the other offseason moves made to this point by the Patriots:

On the return of Vince Wilfork: I’€™m happy I’€™ll be able to look inside and see him next to me. I’€™m happy that he’€™s still my teammate, and we’€™ll be able to go out there and win some football games.

On the offseason return of Julian Edelman — who Ninkovich referred to as “my guy” — as well as some of the other moves: We’€™ve got some great receivers coming back, and with Tom (Brady), we can pretty much do anything. Offensively, we’€™re looking good. Defensively, just adding a couple pieces, and what we have so far, those guys are tremendous talents. As a defensive end, I’€™m happy to have two great talents that can shut down two receivers at the same time. That’€™s awesome. And we have a great safety. So again, defensively, we’€™ve improved, but we’€™ve got to put in the work. That starts now. That starts in the offseason, because you have the talent, but you’€™ve got to put in the work together to get to that ultimate goal. ‘€¦ We’€™re in this thing to win. Everything that we do is directed toward winning football games. The way things work around here is to give our team the best chance of winning, and with those guys, it gives us a better chance.

On the return of Pat Chung: Pat, obviously, went somewhere else and it didn’€™t work out. Coming back, he’€™s a good football player. He’€™s a good, competitive, talented football player who obviously is going to go out there and play hard. He has experience here, he knows what to expect, and it’€™s good to have him back.

On the offseason workouts to this point: Me and (Jerod) Mayo are in there. He’s a pretty explosive guy, so I try to keep up with (him). He’s looking good right now. I’ve been training with him for a long time, and it’s always good to have somebody to push you and make you better.

On losing Pepper Johnson: Pep obviously, he was a tremendous coach in terms of having that game-time experience. But again, the coaching staff that we have here, they’re pretty good. Having Bill involved with the defense all the time, that’s helpful. Any time I have a question or there’s something going on, I’ll go right to Bill and ask him, ‘€˜Hey we’€™re doing this, we’€™re doing that, give me the stuff that I need to know.’€™ I was with Pep for awhile, and wish him all the best in the future. But that’s part of the business. You always have to adjust to changes. There’s always people leaving — coaches leaving, coaches coming. And that’s the way of type game. You deal with it and the new coach that comes in, you get them up to speed on what we’re doing, and get ready to roll.

On motivation needed to get back to AFC title game: I’€™m very motivated. I need to get back to that game and we have to win it this time. Nobody thinks about the time and effort put in to get to a championship game, and the workouts, the offseason, minicamp, training camps, 16 games you have to get through just to get to the playoffs, and then, getting to that AFC Championship Game, it’s a long road. It’€™s a lot of work, and to get back there I have to do it all over again. I’€™m up for the challenge. I want to get back there.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

FOXBORO — Count defensive end Rob Ninkovich as part of the Darrelle Revis Fan Club.

During a break in offseason workouts Tuesday morning at Gillette Stadium, Ninkovich was eager to sing the praises of Revis, as well as cornerback Brandon Browner.

FOXBORO — Count defensive end Rob Ninkovich as part of the Darrelle Revis Fan Club.

During a break in offseason workouts Tuesday morning at Gillette Stadium, Ninkovich was eager to sing the praises of Revis, as well as cornerback Brandon Browner.

“We have the best corner in the league coming in. That’s always good thing for a defensive end like myself — give me a little more time. I’ll be happy to use that,” Ninkovich said of Revis. “I’m happy he’s on our team. He’s a great, great football player. The more great football players you have on your team, the better chance you have to win. Again, I’m happy he’s playing for us.

“You can do whatever you want with him. You can put him on the best receiver, tight end, whoever, and just say, ‘Go cover this guy,’ and he can do it. Whenever you have a guy who’s that talented, it’s always great, as far as defensive schemes and stuff like that.”

As for Browner, Ninkovich said he was amazed by the size of the former Seahawks defensive back.

“That guy is bigger than me,” the 6-foot-3, 251-pound Ninkovich said of the 6-foot-4, 221-pound Browner. “When I first met him, I didn’t know he was a corner. Again, he’s big, physical guy. He’s tall and long. He’s another guy who is a piece you can put on the field anywhere to go cover a guy and shut them down. That’s another great addition we have to our secondary.”

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Blog Author: 
Christopher Price 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.

Kyle Fuller ended the 2013 season on the sideline with an injury, but he impressed scouts at the NFL combine. (AP)

Kyle Fuller ended the 2013 season on the sideline with an injury, but he impressed scouts at the NFL combine. (AP)


Position: Cornerback

School: Virginia Tech

Height: 6-foot-0

Weight: 194 pounds

Achievements: 2013 third team All-ACC, 2012 honorable mention All-ACC, 2011 second-team All-ACC

What he brings: A smart, physical corner, Fuller isn’t the fastest (a 4.49 40-yard time at the NFL combine) or the biggest corner available in this draft, but he is solid and hard-working. Fuller shows good anticipatory skills but needs to improve to be a starting NFL cornerback. He tackles well and is strong in run support, but he has shown on tape that he can be overaggressive and make mistakes.

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 1-2

Notes: A senior captain for the Hokies, Fuller had two interceptions, 10 pass breakups and 24 tackles in 2013. He missed the final four games of the season due to a hernia, which required surgery. … Fuller has three brothers who all played football at Virginia Tech. Vincent Fuller was a fourth-round pick in 2005 by the Titans and played safety for Tennessee until 2010. He had briefs stints with the Lions and Patriots in 2011. Corey Fuller was a sixth-round pick in 2013 by the Lions. A wide receiver, he ended last season on Detroit’s practice squad. Kendall Fuller just completed his freshman season as a cornerback for the Hokies.

Related articles:

The Roanoke Times: Kyle Fuller’s draft stock on the rise after strong NFL combine showing

Yahoo! Sports: Virginia Tech CB Kyle Fuller out for regular season with surgery for ‘core muscle injury’

Video: Here are highlights of Fuller against Marshall in 2013.

Blog Author: 
Arjuna Ramgopal 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.

Odell Beckham (AP)

Odell Beckham broke LSU’s single-season all-purpose yardage record with 2,315 yards as a junior in 2013. (AP)


Position: Wide receiver

School: LSU

Height: 5-foot-11

Weight: 198 pounds

Achievements: 2013 Paul Hornung Award winner (nation’€™s most versatile player), FWAA 2013 first-team All-America kick returner, 2013 first-team All-America all-purpose, 2013 first-team All-SEC all-purpose (Associated Press, coaches), 2013 first-team All-SEC return specialist (coaches), first-team All-SEC wide receiver (Athlon), 2013 first-team All-SEC kick returner (Sporting News), 2011 SEC coaches All-Freshman team

What he brings: Beckham is a quick, fluid player who has solid vision of the field. Analysts note that he does not have elite speed and can be inconsistent at times. He helped his cause at the NFL combine when he was a top performer in the 20-yard shuttle (3.94 seconds) and 60-yard shuttle (10.93 seconds).

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 1-2

Notes: Beckham’€™s father, Odell Beckham Sr., was a running back at LSU from 1989-92 and his mother, Heather Van Norman, was an All-America track runner at LSU from 1991-93. … Beckham broke LSU’€™s single-season all-purpose yardage record with 2,315 yards as a junior in 2013, including 59 receptions for 1,152 yards and eight touchdowns, and 32 kick returns for 845 yards. In 2012 he finished with 43 catches for 713 yards and two touchdowns. As a true freshman in 2011 he caught 41 passes for 475 yards and two TDs.

Related articles: Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry bring new level of LSU excellence to 2014 NFL draft LSU WR Odell Beckham, Jr. leads the charge in Sunday’s first combine drills

The Washington Post: LSU WR Odell Beckham Jr. hoping to capitalize on speed, versatility

Video: Here is a video highlighting Beckham’s career at LSU.

Blog Author: 
Meredith Perri 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.

Kony Ealy (AP)

Missouri’s Kony Ealy had the fastest 3-cone drill time for defensive linemen at the NFL combine. (AP)


Position: Defensive end

School: Missouri

Height: 6-foot-4

Weight: 273 pounds

Achievements: 2013 first-team All-SEC, 2011 Big 12 all-freshman team

What he brings: Scouts point out Ealy’€™s athleticism and speed that allows him to have solid initial quickness off the snap. Scouts also say, though, that Ealy needs to continue developing his awareness of the game. As a junior in 2013, Ealy had 43 tackles, 14.5 for loss, 9.5 sacks and three forced fumbles.

Where the Patriots could get him: Round 1

Notes: Ealy was roommates with Michael Sam while at Missouri. Although Sam was the SEC’€™s Co-Defensive Player of the Year, Ealy is projected to have more of an upside. … Ealy had the fastest 3-cone drill time of any defensive lineman at the NFL combine. His 40-yard-dash time was an unimpressive 4.97, but he improved on that at Missouri’s pro day last month, reportedly running in the 4.6 range.

Related articles: Kony Ealy doesn’t see Michael Sam as off-field distraction

USA Today: NFL Draft diary: Missouri’s Kony Ealy looks ahead to pro day

Columbia Daily Tribune: Taking stock of Kony Ealy’s stock

Video: Here is a video highlighting Ealy’s time at Missouri.

Blog Author: 
Meredith Perri
Al Davis was a frequent trade partner over the years before he passed away. (AP)

Al Davis was a frequent trade partner over the years before he passed away. (AP)

1. One of the easiest bets every year is the fact that the Patriots will make some sort of draft-related deal. But who is Bill Belichick‘€™s favorite trade partner? We went back and tallied up all of Belichick’€™s draft-related deals over the years, and while it’€™s important to note that not all of the draft-related deals took place on draft weekend, there were a few surprises. Oakland leads the list with nine trades, with several deals of note, including Randy Moss (acquired by New England for a fourth-round pick) and Richard Seymour (dealt to Oakland in 2009 for a first-rounder). One interesting thing here is that despite the fact that Belichick has made more draft-related deals with the Raiders than any other club, he hasn’€™t made a trade with Oakland since Al Davis died in 2011. Denver is second on the list with seven draft-related deals, most of which were relatively low-level swaps between Belichick and his friend Mike Shanahan when he held the reins with the Broncos. Green Bay and Philadelphia have six each, with most of the transactions with the Eagles coming in annual draft weekend swaps between Belichick and another friend, Andy Reid. And Baltimore and Chicago have each made five draft-related swaps, with another Friend of Bill (Ozzie Newsome) willing to work with his old colleague in helping facilitate trades on a fairly regular basis. One other note worth passing along. Since he took over in 2000, Belichick has made draft-related deals with every team in the league except two: the Jets and Colts.

2. Despite the fact that this year’€™s draft is two weeks later than it’€™s been in previous years, to this point in the pre-draft process, not much is different this time around — at least from a logistical perspective. Speaking late last month at the owners’€™ meetings, Belichick said that when it comes to scouting and evaluations, ‘€œthe process is about the same’€ as it was in year’€™s past. Belichick did indicate that the upcoming stretch — “early- to mid-April,” in his words — is a key part in the evaluation process. “Then, all that information will be pulled together and added to what we had going out back in February. We’€™ll see where all that comes in,”€ Belichick said. “At some point, it will all get pulled back together. We’€™ll talk about the players on the board. I’€™m sure we’€™ll make some changes and adjustments. And then, we’€™ll continue the process from there.” While not much is expected to change when it comes to the pre-draft process (if anything, it gives teams more of a chance to evaluate), expect changes on the back end. The seven-week stretch between the draft and the pre-training camp break will now be crammed with events in hopes of getting rookies up to speed as fast as possible. And while the elite level prospects will still rise above and distinguish themselves, the players who could be hurt the most by the smaller window are the undrafted free agents and camp invitees. In previous years, those players were able to get the attention of the coaching staff in the smaller groups that are usually the norm at rookie minicamps and distinguish themselves as a potential prospect that could eventually flourish if given the proper amount of time. Now, with less of an opportunity to make a name for themselves before the rest of the veterans return, they could get squeezed out of the picture sooner rather than later.

3. It’€™s almost hard to fathom, but two months after the Seahawks crushed the Broncos in the Super Bowl, football players can return to their facilities for the start of offseason workouts this week. Teams that hired a new coach this offseason are allowed to begin offseason workout programs on Monday — that means Cleveland, Houston, Detroit, Minnesota, Tampa, Tennessee and Washington are all allowed to get started on their prep work for 2014. As for teams with returning head coaches like the Patriots, they have to wait until April 21. We covered much of what you’€™re allowed to do (and not do) during the offseason programs, but it’€™s worth reiterating here. Phase one covers two weeks, and only rehab and strength and conditioning is allowed. Phase two runs for three weeks, and that’€™s when individual player instruction and drills are permitted but no live contact or offense vs. defense drills. Phase three covers four weeks, and includes 10 days of organized team activities. Again, no live contact is permitted, but teams can run 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills.

4. The idea of Donald Trump buying the Bills surfaced this week, and at least from this viewpoint, it wasn’€™t completely coincidental that the news came down during the week of April Fools Day. The word is that the sale of the franchise is on the fast track, but the idea of selling to someone like Trump would be bad news for the Bills, as well as the rest of the league. While he would likely have some support around the league (it’€™s reasonable to think that he’€™d have an ally in Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who he counts as a friend), and it’€™s presumed he would be able to pull together the money, it would be a stretch to see him getting the requisite votes needed to gain ownership. One only needs to look at his track record as an owner in the USFL, where some believe he helped sink the league. While there are occasional exceptions to the rule (see Jerry Jones), it’€™s also likely that Trump’€™s occasionally flashy style wouldn’€™t be a welcome addition. There’€™s always the chance that Trump could change his ways, but the idea that someone of his ilk would be welcomed with open arms into one of the most exclusive sporting clubs on the planet seems far-fetched.

5. Keeping with the Bills theme, Buffalo’€™s pickup of wide receiver Mike Williams represents another offensive option for the Patriots consider when they meet their division opponents twice a year. The occasionally erratic Williams — who brings a lot of baggage to the table with arrests, fines for missing meetings and injury — was dealt by the Bucs for a sixth-round pick. If Buffalo can get him to buy into the program, he could bring an intriguing skill set to the Bills passing game. The Syracuse product (who had a contentious relationship with Bills coach Doug Marrone while the two were together at Syracuse) had three straight years of 60-plus catches, including two consecutive seasons of 65 catches in 2010 and 2011. The 6-foot-2, 212-pound Williams joins an offense that already has Stevie Johnson, Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin, as well as running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson. Regardless, it’€™s clear that Williams could benefit from a fresh start somewhere, and could represent a win-win for both sides if it all works out. Williams signed a huge six-year, $40.5 million contract with the Bucs last July, but played in just six games in 2013 because of a hamstring issue. Tampa Bay would have been on the hook for a big cap hit if it kept Williams, but were able to get out from under a bad contract with the move. Conversely, Buffalo only owes Williams $1.8 million in 2014, and a sizable portion of that is tied up in a workout bonus. It also changes things when it comes to the draft — expect the Bucs to be primarily interested in a wide receiver at No. 7, with some of the possibilities being Clemson’€™s Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans of Texas A&M if they’€™re still available. Meanwhile, you have to figure that this takes the Bills out of the running for a receiver.

6. The Titans cut running back Chris Johnson on Friday, and while New England has been intrigued enough by some of the available free agent backs to kick the tires of guys like Maurice Jones-Drew and Michael Bush, from this viewpoint, it seems unlikely they’€™d be interested in Johnson. His yards per carry has dropped from 5.6 yards per carry in 2009 to 3.9 last year, and whether that’€™s the result of a poor offensive line or overwork (he’€™s only one of a handful of backs to with more than 250 attempts each year for the last six seasons), it’€™s a bad sign. In addition, he was never known as one of the best blockers in the league, and the Patriots value blitz pickup skills in their backs. All that, armed with the knowledge that running backs usually hit a wall around the age of 30 (and he’€™s set to turn 29 in September), means that the Patriots will likely take a pass. As for who might be interested in him, a Pro Football Talk report indicates that the market for Johnson will heat up to a point where he’€™ll land with a new team soon. The PFT report also indicates that Johnson might decide on a one-year, show-me deal, which might allow him to seek a bigger deal in 2015, a year that should likely prove to be a better marketplace for running backs. (For what it’€™s worth, at this point, it sounds like the Jets and Falcons are the two teams in the lead for Johnson’€™s services, at least at this point.)

7. The Patriots decision to cut loose Adrian Wilson on Friday marked the end of the veterans’€™ time in New England, one that was marked by unfulfilled promise. When he was acquired last spring, it was believed he could be the heir to Rodney Harrison‘€™s throne, a hard-hitting, high-character defensive back who made his bones on the West Coast, but in a last-ditch attempt to win a ring, signed with the Patriots at the tail end of his career. Wilson never saw the field during the regular season — he was placed on injured reserve prior to the opener — but by all accounts, was a positive locker room presence in his time with the Patriots. From this viewpoint, it was easy to see why Wilson was so well-regarded around the league. He was quiet and understated with the media, but players regarded him with the utmost respect. (This Friday afternoon tweet from Devin McCourty should give you some idea of what his fellow players thought of him.) While his reps tweeted out Friday that they anticipated him playing somewhere this year, if this is the end of the road for Wilson, the 34-year-old has generated the stats needed to at least be a part of the Hall of Fame conversation. A three-time All-Pro (one first-team appearance and two second-team appearances), he’€™s only one of six players in NFL history to compile at least 25 sacks and 25 interceptions. He’€™s a high character guy who distinguished himself as one of the pillars of the Arizona franchise, both on and off the field. (When the Cards released him, the franchise issued a press release hailing Wilson’€™s “€œiconic status”€ and adding that he will always have an important spot in team history.) He was tremendous against the run and underrated against the pass, and according to Football Outsiders editor Aaron Schatz, one of the FO’€™s favorites over the years, but simply didn’€™t get the respect he deserved because he played on some pretty bad Cardinals teams over the years. (One more note — from a marketing standpoint, it now appears to be an inevitability that Darrelle Revis is set to take over the No. 24. The number went from Kyle Arrington to Wilson last offseason, a switch that was jumpstarted by a diaper donation from Wilson to Arrington, a new father. As a result, Arrington switched from No. 24 to 25 to accommodate Wilson.)

8. After serving 35 days of his 60-day sentence, Alfonzo Dennard was released on Friday on good behavior. With the jail term now behind him, it marks the start of a key offseason for the cornerback, who is expected to face a serious challenge for playing time with the addition of Brandon Browner. While Dennard certainly has a leg up on Browner because he’€™s been in the system for two years and has played well in that time frame — as well as the fact that Browner faces a suspension for the first four games — there’€™s still the possibility that Dennard will face a suspension for his off-field transgressions. What Dennard does have going for him is the fact that he’€™s been with the franchise for two years — from a continuity standpoint, the Patriots have seen a lot of turnover to this point in the offseason in the secondary, and any familiar faces figure to help with the transition going forward.

9. When it comes to what’€™s going to happen with the first pick in this year’€™s draft, only Texans coach Bill O’€™Brien really knows for sure what will go down. There’€™s been a lot of talk as to which way O’€™Brien and Houston will lean — whether they’€™ll chase after defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney, a quarterback (likely Blake Bortles, based on the connection between the quarterback and his coaching staff), or deal out of the top spot altogether and go after someone else. (There’€™s one school of thought that says O’€™Brien and the Texans would be interested in selecting Clowney and going after a quarterback with the first pick of the second round, the 33rd selection overall.) Despite his background in the New England offense, if he does try and go after a quarterback, he’€™s smart enough to know that he won’€™t be trying to find the next Tom Brady. “The one thing for us in Houston, especially like myself and (quarterback coach) George Godsey, we have to guard against looking for the next Tom Brady,”€ he said. “Those guys are few and far between. You think about how many Hall of Fame quarterbacks there are, and he’€™s going to be one, there just aren’€™t that many of them in the whole spectrum of quarterbacks in the history of this league, as you know. I think what we’€™re looking for is a guy that has some of Tom’€™s qualities: like a great teammate, an accountable guy, a hard-working guy, a competitive guy, a good leader. But to go out there and say, ‘€˜This guy is going to be like Tom Brady.’€™ I mean, that’€™s ridiculous.”

10. With the news that the Patriots hosted quarterbacks Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater on a pre-draft visit this week, it’€™s important to clarify just what happens when a player comes in for a visit. It’€™s different for different prospects — some engage in some film study and work on the white board, and some are asked about what they would do in certain on-field situations. In the end, it really comes down to the fact that you’€™re not interested in giving a guy a physical workout, but a mental one, and in many cases, build on some of the things they learned in the 15-minute interview at the combine. “You only get 15 minutes at the combine, so it’€™s very difficult to be engaged in a one-on-one conversation,” Mike Lombardi told me a few years ago prior to taking a personnel gig with the Patriots this past offseason. “You don’€™t have all your tape with you. You don’€™t have every asset you need to utilize to the best of your ability to determine the intelligence level, the commitment, all the things you want to do. You can sit them in a room — you have all day. You want to sit down and make sure you watch tape, go over some things, walk through some situations. It gives you a great chance to spend a lot of quality time — uninterrupted –€” with the player.”

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price 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.

Khalil Mack (AP)

Khalil Mack has rocketed to the top of many mock drafts. (AP)


Position: Outside linebacker

School: Buffalo

Height: 6-foot-3

Weight: 251 pounds

Achievements: 2013 MAC Defensive Player of the Year, 2013 first-team All-American, 2013, 2012, 2011 first team All-MAC, 2010 third-team All-MAC

What he brings: Mack is considered by many scouts to the best talent in a talented 2014 draft class. One of the most athletically gifted outside linebackers in college, Mack has a high-energy motor, excellent frame and impressive burst. He has an ideal build and great edge speed. While Mack can get to the quarterback, he struggles in other aspects of his game, particularly dropping into coverage and tackling in open space.

Where the Patriots could get him: Mack is projected to be a top-10 pick, so the Patriots undoubtedly would need to trade up to get him.

Notes: In 2013 Mack recorded 100 tackles, 10.5 sacks and five forced fumbles. For his career, Mack had 28.5 sacks, an NCAA-record 16 forced fumbles and an NCAA-record-tying 75 tackles for loss. … In 2012 Mack got into a fight with teammate Fred Lee and was suspended for the first game of that season. … Mack did not miss any games in college due to injury.

Related articles: Buffalo’€™s Khalil Mack is surest thing in 2014 NFL draft Buffalo LB Khalil Mack breaks record shared by Terrell Suggs

Video: Here are Mack’€™s 2013 highlights with Buffalo.

Blog Author: 
Arjuna Ramgopal
Will Smith remains a free agent possibility for the Patriots. (AP)

Will Smith remains a free agent possibility for the Patriots. (AP)

With the offseason now one-third of the way done — and most of free agency now complete — the Patriots still have to address a few specific areas of need as part of the team-building process. Here’s a look at four personnel questions that have to be dealt with between now and the start of training camp.

Backup linebacker: Brandon Spikes and Dane Fletcher departed as free agents this offseason, with Spikes heading to Buffalo and Fletcher signing with Tampa Bay. Neither were starters, but over the last two seasons, both were called upon to play significant snaps for the Patriots. As a result, New England is a little thin when it comes to their linebacker depth. Currently on the roster, the Patriots have a few possibilities when it comes to backing up the expected starting trio of Jerod Mayo, Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins, including Steve Beauharnais, who just finished his rookie season. But their pursuit of veteran free agent Wesley Woodyard was likely a sign they believe they need more help when it comes to depth at the spot.

Strong safety: Steve Gregory was cut loose earlier this offseason, and Adrian Wilson was released on Friday. And while the Patriots did bring back Patrick Chung on Thursday, there’s some uncertainty as to what New England plans on doing at the position. Two things to remember: one, the Patriots like their defensive backs to be versatile, and so shuffling DBs from one spot to another wouldn’t be a surprise. And two, on that same vein, there are some possibilities on the roster, including Duron Harmon and Logan Ryan, the latter of whom has been the subject of much speculation this offseason when it comes to a possible move to free safety. In addition, there’s Tavon Wilson, who slid down the depth chart in 2013 to more of a special teams role, one that’s also occupied by fellow safeties Kanorris Davis and Nate Ebner. (And there’s always the possibility that Gregory could return on a reworked deal — he said this week despite the fact that he was cut by New England, “it would definitely be a place I would love to go back to.”) Regardless of whether or not New England decides to address the position in the draft, right now, it’s shaping up to be one of the more intriguing camp battles this spring and summer.

Situational pass rusher: The Patriots were believed to be at least partially in the mix for Jared Allen in free agency before he signed with the Bears, and while New England does currently have youngsters Jake Bequette and Michael Buchanan on the roster as backup defensive ends, it’s a fair dropoff at this point from the starting duo of Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich. In terms of free agents who could still be on the market, Will Smith remains a possibility, but his recent injury woes leave him questionable at this stage of his career. When it comes to other in-house possibilities, Andre Carter could return for at least part of the season if New England struggles to find help — he sure sounds open to the possibility of returning. In addition, Armond Armstead could also be in the mix as an interior pass rushing presence at some point if he ever does get healthy. It’s also expected that if veteran Tommy Kelly can stay on the field, he’ll offer some support as another interior pass rushing presence in 2014.

Depth at tight end and running back: While New England appears to be set when it comes to starters at the two positions, it could really use some depth at both spots, and both will likely be addressed in some form or fashion come the second and/or third day of the draft. Despite the fact the Patriots might be more inclined to move away from the two-tight end sets they ran over the last few seasons, another tight end to compliment Rob Gronkowski could be had in this draft, especially given the fact that this year appears to be a pretty good one for tight ends. In addition, the fact that the Patriots made a serious play for veteran free agent running back Maurice Jones-Drew could be taken as a sign they feel like they need someone to replace LeGarrette Blount in the backfield.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price