We've made it to the end.
With 15% of the vote, the fifth place tight end position is a clear need, but will likely be addressed in the draft.
With 18% of the vote, the fourth place defensive tackle position will likely be fixed this off-season, but the need is lessened with all of the bodies available.
With 19% of the vote, the third place defensive end position should be fixed with a stop-gap veteran defensive end, but the glut of free agent veterans available reduces the Patriots need to attack the position out of the gate.
With 22% of the vote, the second place interior line position can and should be addressed in both free agency and the draft, although it's a weak market and there's no need to overpay.
And in first place, with 26% of the vote, cornerback has been elected the most important position to address in free agency.
I am in full agreement.
The Patriots currently field a cornerback unit of:
Alfonzo Dennard, a rising third year who is currently in jail and is consistently injured.
Kyle Arrington, a veteran slot corner who is solid inside, questionable outside, and somehow is getting paid more than Rob Ninkovich.
Justin Green, a rising sophomore who spent his rookie season on-and-off the back-end of the active roster and the practice squad.
None are players to hang your hat on, even if they all provide a wide range of skills and potential. We saw what happened when Dennard was asked to cover a #1 receiver in the playoffs, where he was absolutely annihilated by Demaryius Thomas. There's very little depth.
The Patriots have to find a veteran cornerback who can step in and start from day 1. It's not an option.
The real question is what type of veteran do they want to hire.
There's the top tier talent, where Aqib Talib could come back (and should be expected back). While Brent Grimes signed with the Dolphins, the group of Alterraun Verner, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Vontae Davis are all still available, too. Darrelle Revis is expected to be cut on Wednesday, if the Buccaneers can't find a trade partner.
However, all of these players could easily command upwards of $8, $9, or $10 million per season, especially after next-tier cornerback Sam Shields broke the scale with a $9.75 million per season contract in Green Bay.
If that's too rich for your blood, the next tier still has quality talent, and would likely be in the $4 to $5 million per season range.
Antonio Cromartie and Charles Tillman are both older cornerbacks with questionable gas in the tank. The former certainly won't provide leadership, but they both could fill a role. Some other veterans, with cheaper price tags, can include Champ Bailey, Asante Samuel, and Carlos Rogers.
There's a large group of players in the second tier, firmly in their prime, like Walter Thurmond III, Tarell Brown, Captain Munnerlyn, Corey Graham, Chris Cook, or Terrell Thomas.
All is not lost if Talib walks. The Patriots can still find able bodies in free agency, and use the money they've saved to address other positions. It would be preferable to have a lock-down corner on the field, but there is more than one way to attack this free agency period.