As we launch into a new week of free agent meetings and negotiations,
I'll put out my opinions on the players the Patriots should target. I
no longer get into individual targets for the draft, because I simply
don't get to watch enough NCAA football here to have my own opinions
on players. (Anybody can read a magazine or website for those, of
course; but we all know that the percentages on identifying players
who can successfully make the jump from NCAA to NFL are not good.) I
feel more confident about my opinions on NFL veterans, since I've seen
all of them play at least a few games over their years in the league.
So, here's how I'd like to see the Patriots move this week. There are
only 3 positions that I'd call a priority in the FA market. Here's my
Top priority, IMO, remains a starting caliber outside CB. The good
news is that there are at least a dozen of those still out there. I
see no reason why the Patriots should not sign one to complete the
upgrade of the secondary that began by resigning Talib and Arrington,
and adding Adrian Wilson. My top choices would be from among older
veterans. Those would be Chris Gamble (30); Quentin Jammer (34); and
Terrence Newman (35); or Antoine Winfield (36) - who are all tough,
strong, and solid in both press and off coverage. Any of them would be
great mentors for Dennard; and, acting in the role of backup to
Dennard (if they'd accept that), likely still have enough gas left in
the tank to play well for limited periods of time. (Gamble is the
exception there, who, at 30, would likely challenge Dennard for the
starting spot.) Of course, the big caveat in making this my top
priority is the Ras-I Dowling situation. Can he stay on the field, and
play at the level expected of him when drafted? None of us can know
that. If he can, then adding another CB drops in priority. If the team
chooses not to add another CB, I'll choose to believe that they feel
they can count on Dowling to step in at the 4th CB position behind
Talib, Dennard, and Arrington.
Next priority, just by a hair, would be the addition of another WR.
Even if they land Sanders from Pittsburgh, the trio of Sanders,
Amendola, and Donald Jones is not a great WR corps. But we can't
ignore the fact that Hernandez, though technically a TE, is actually a
4th, very talented WR. Ebert is decent player, in spots; and maybe the
versatile Edelman will be retained. The position is not a disaster
area, considering the guy throwing the ball to them. But if the team
can manage to squeeze out the cash to sign a potential superstar, like
Victor Cruz, to add to that group, it would really complete the
offense for them, even before the draft. So, yes, Cruz would be my top
WR priority; but I'd be very surprised to see that happen. It would
definitely cost them big bucks.
So, if not Cruz, who? My fallback top choice would be ... Mohamed
Massaquoi. Easy now. This kid will be just 26 when the season starts;
and has played for only 4 years with the QB weak Cleveland Browns.
From what I've seen of him, I agree with everything that "Scouts,
Inc." says about him in their evaluation: "Massaquoi is a big,
physical receiver and an excellent route runner. He has very good
hands and shows courage and concentration in traffic. He is a solid
perimeter blocker, giving great effort staying connected to defenders.
Massaquoi is one of the more consistent offensive players for the
Browns and could flourish in a more stable environment." What's not to
like about that? I'd be very happy if the Patriots signed him.
Besides, I really don't see any other WR still available that I
believe has the potential to be any more than a backup to the guys we
already have. Only Cruz and Massaquoi, IMO, could consistently be
significant factors in our offense. Otherwise, sign a body or two, or
and then make WR our top priority in the draft, if there will be
anything there by pick #29.
The only other true priority need I see for FA is depth at OT - depth,
that is, assuming we re-sign Vollmer. if not, in terms of priority
allocation of funds, I'd have to put OT above both CB and WR; as I saw
far too much pressure on Brady from the right side when Vollmer wasn't
in there. I acknowledge that I don't have the eyes or knowledge to
have a strong personal opinion on OTs. That said, the top 3 guys I see
listed are the much too expensive Jake Long, who is OLT all the way,
when we really need an ORT; then Ryan Clady and Branden Albert, who
are both Franchise Tagged, and, therefore, also not reasonable targets
for the Patriots. There are really only 2 guys that would seem to
provide the talent we'd need at that position, should Vollmer not be
resigned; or should he go down with back problems again. Those are
Andre Smith and Eric Wilson. So the bottom line here is to resign
Vollmer, draft an OT early, and trust in Dante to "coach 'em up". It's
a position of some concern for the team this year.
In summary, my top 3 ideal signings would be: 1. CB Chris Gamble; 2.
WR Victor Cruz; 3. OT Andre Smith. My "fall back" top 3 would be: 1.
CB Quentin Jammer; 2. WR Mohamed Massaquoi; 3. OT Eric Wilson. Now
I'll shut up, sit back, and watch what happens. :-)