New England Patriots Links 3/01/12 - Patriots' Biggest Needs: Cornerback, Safety, Pass-rusher

James Walker (ESPN) Ranking team needs: Patriots.

No. 1 need: Cornerback

Analysis: If you watched the Patriots all season, this shouldn't come as a surprise. New England's 31st-ranked pass defense was horrific last year. Even casual observers who only watched the Patriots in the Super Bowl saw New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning carve up New England and earn MVP honors. New England starting cornerback Devin McCourty took a big step back last season. Kyle Arrington had a lot of interceptions but also gave up plenty of big plays. McCourty is young and can still improve, but I don't think his ceiling is high enough to become a Darrelle Revis-type corner, who can shut down one side of the field. If New England feels it can get that caliber of corner free agency or the draft, the team should jump on it.

No. 2 need: Safety

Analysis: Many would argue safety is New England's biggest need, and it's certainly a valid debate. However, the reason I put cornerback over safety is because corner is more valuable in today's NFL. In my opinion, cornerback is the second-hardest position to play behind quarterback. You take the corner over the elite safety every time. But there's no avoiding New England's need at safety. Patrick Chung is a good, young player who needs someone next to him to take the pressure off on the back end. This is a great year for safeties in free agency. Therefore, New England could have this need filled before the draft.

No. 3 need: Pass-rusher

Analysis: This need could be helped if New England retains free-agent defensive end Mark Anderson, Andre Carter, or both. The Patriots' two best pass-rushers are set to hit the open market. Anderson most likely will generate more interest due to Carter’s season-ending quad injury. He had a great year with the Patriots and registered 10 sacks. But even if New England keeps Anderson, the team needs another threat on defense to get to the quarterback.

Tom E. Curran explores why the Patriots would offer Chad Ochocinco a chance to restructure his $3 million salary for 2012 - which is guaranteed if he's on the roster opening day.

Look, the Patriots screwed up when they traded with the Bengals and gave Ocho a three-year deal worth $11 million and close to $5 million guaranteed. By the end of the season, the greatest compliment he earned was, "Well, at least he wasn't an a-hole . . ."

He wasn't worth the money. Big deal. He wasn't an impediment to the team's success and the fact other pickups like Andre Carter and Brian Waters worked out so well lessens the sting. This could be the latest -- and last -- bit of face-saving done in L'affaire Ocho. The Patriots ask him to trim his deal, he politely refuses, the team releases him and the indignity of an outright release is avoided. Everybody loved the chance to work together and will remain friends forever.

Worst-case scenario? Ocho agrees to the pay cut.

TEAM TALK

  • Paul Perillo notes the Patriots signed QB Mike Hartline to a futures contract back in January, but never announced it.
  • Andy Hart discusses the five Patriots players who made the Pro Football Weekly list of the top 100 free agents, and which ones didn't.
  • Andy Hart notes Chad Ochocinco acknowledged the Patriots' request to restructure his contract, through Twitter: "Restructuring is fine, the fun part is finding ways to make it back up during the offseason."

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