The Patriots head into the depth days of free agency with a couple of holes on the roster. There are glaring needs at cornerback, while there needs to be competition at defensive tackle and the offensive interior. Here's a breakdown of the top players still available that fit the Patriots.
Running back - The Patriots lost Shane Vereen to the Giants and Stevan Ridley is on the market. New England has plenty of in house talent, but they've been linked to a handful of quality players.
1. C.J. Spiller - a more dynamic player than Vereen, Spiller might be worth the 4-year, $16 million contract that both Vereen and Mark Ingram received.
2. Reggie Bush - another dynamic rusher, Bush could step in as a great complement to LeGarrette Blount for under $3 million per season.
3. Pierre Thomas - a mainstay of the Saints, PT is a quality committee back who would fit right in as a receiver out of the backfield.
4. Chris Johnson - recovering from a gunshot to the arm, CJ is an interesting option. He was still productive with the Jets, but didn't receive the snaps to turn heads.
5. Ahmad Bradshaw - busted for marijuana in February, his value will never be lower. Bradshaw was extremely effective with the Colts, but ended his season with a broken fibula. Has one 16 game season in his eight year career.
Wide receiver - The Patriots re-signed Brian Tyms and still have Aaron Dobson in the wings, but the Patriots are still actively trying to bring in game changers at the position on the cheap.
1. Percy Harvin - a total headache, Harvin is a dynamic player who has been linked to the Patriots all off-season.
2. Michael Crabtree - after injuring his achilles in 2013, Crab didn't look like the same player in 2014. That said, the whole 49ers organization looked awful. There's been no interest surrounding him. He would be a prime candidate for a one-year deal.
3. Cecil Shorts III - Shorts would offer some outside speed as a quality third receiver. He'd be the #2 guy for a lot of teams.
Tight end - The Patriots are looking to improve over Michael Hoomanawanui, but it doesn't seem like a position in which they want to invest heavily.
1. Zach Miller - New England has shown interest in the well rounded tight end coming off an ankle injury.
2. Anthony Fasano - the Patriots have been linked to Fasano for the past couple of years and now could be their chance to get him for cheap. Fasano can do it all.
3. Tony Moeaki - Moeaki flashed promise early in his career, but injuries derailed his trajectory. A big buy-low candidate.
Interior lineman - It's likely New England will invest here in the draft, but there are some depth players available that would allow the Patriots to move on from some of their weaker linemen. Dan Connolly is likely a top option, but here are alternatives:
1. Justin Blalock - an abover average pass blocker, Blalock would slide in as a starting left guard while a younger player can develop.
2. Shelley Smith - the Patriots were interested in the guard prior to last season and would be a good fit along the interior.
3. A.Q. Shipley - a former Colts lineman, the Indianapolis coaches benched him even though he was receiving quality marks from scouts.
Edge defender - The Patriots have Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich, as well as Michael Buchanan and Zach Moore, but they're clearly interested in adding additional bodies to the rotation.
1. Jabaal Sheard - a stout run defender with plus-pass rush ability, he would allow both Jones and Ninkovich to see more rest over the course of the season.
2. Adrian Clayborn - Injured product, Clayborn is stout at the edge and can get to the quarterback every once and a while. He'll come on a cheap prove-it deal.
3. Dwight Freeney - an aged veteran, Freeney would only be brought on in sub packages a la Andre Carter. Bill Belichick has a lot of respect for Freeney.
Defensive tackle - The Patriots would love to have Vince Wilfork back, but there needs to be additional bodies added into the mix.
1. Nick Fairley - the top outstanding defensive tackle, the Patriots are interested in a potentially electric defensive lineman.
2. Randy Starks - a former Dolphin, Starks has been linked to the Patriots in the past. He slowed down last season, but can still function as a run stuffer and pass rusher.
3. Ahtyba Rubin - a nose tackle who can plug against the run, Rubin would fit in well alongside Sealver Siliga on the interior.
Cornerback - There's an obvious need and there's no one player that can fix the hole; last season's cornerback class was far greater.
1. Chris Culliver - Culliver the top remaining cornerback and would fit well if the Patriots wish to continue playing press coverage.
2. Patrick Robinson - Robinson is a cheap player coming off a quality season; was it a mirage, or did he turn a corner? Robinson can line up everywhere.
3. Sterling Moore - speaking of lining up everywhere, the former Patriot has emerged as one of the top free agent cornerbacks. Why not bring him back for another spin?