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Could the Players that Solve the Patriots FA Needs Already Be on the Roster?

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Looking at in-house veterans in addition to potential bargain bin pickups the Patriots could re-sign to fulfill offseason needs.

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The Patriots have very little needs in regards to importing free agents. I believe the team should try to add a guard, a running back, a receiver, and a corner in free agency due to the need to have strong depth at those positions. The Patriots impending free agents include Ryan Wendell, Tarell Brown, and LeGarrette Blount. None of those guys will be expensive to re-sign, with Wendell and Blount having very little appeal outside of New England. All three players can likely be had at just above the veteran minimum and it never hurts to have that extra depth around.

Offensive Line:

The Patriots main woes are at the OT position, but perhaps the player the Patriots missed the most on that unit was veteran guard/center Ryan Wendell. Wendell is an average at best guard who can be a serviceable starter if needed, but not having him for the 2015 season really hurt the offensive line. The Patriots have already drafted his replacement in Shaq Mason in the 2015 draft, but the Patriots are not going to find a cheap, veteran guard with as good a knowledge of the system as Wendell. I'd bring him back on a 1 to 2-year deal contract with very little guarantees in it but incentives that pay him in case he's needed to start. When injuries strike, the unit only is as strong as the weakest link and if Wendell is the weakest link, then the offense is in good shape.

At the tackle position, I could see the Patriots making a move for a potential right tackle to replace Sebastian Vollmer, but I believe there are better options in the draft plus Vollmer hasn't shown signs of decline yet. Part of the reason why Vollmer struggled at the end of the season is because he had to move over to the other side of the line after 5+ years as the team's starting right tackle. With Nate Solder coming off IR, Vollmer can move back to his more comfortable right tackle spot. I could see the team perhaps taking a backup swing tackle to compete with Marcus Cannon, La'Adrian Waddle, and Cameron Fleming for the top backup spot. I believe the Patriots should draft a tackle when the opportunity is right in the draft considering there are no clear solutions at the RT spot in 2017.

Running Back:

The Patriots current roster has Dion Lewis, James White, Brandon Bolden, and Joey Iosefa at the RB position. None of those guys are very strong candidates to be the top RB on the depth chart even though Dion Lewis has moves that can't be simulated in Madden. The Patriots have a need for a guy who can grind yards between the tackles to complement the shifty Dion Lewis. The Patriots do have plenty of FA options on the table, including a player who used to be the main rusher for the team in 2012-2013 in Stevan Ridley. If the Patriots need a quick fix at the position, Ridley would be their best option since he played 4 years on the team. Ridley is a year further removed from an October 2014 ACL and MCL tear, which means we may see 2012 Ridley again.

Other options include Matt Forte, who was linked to the Patriots prior to the 2008 draft but couldn't draft him thanks to "Camera in the Wrong Spot"-Gate. Forte has already accumulated 2500+ touches in his lengthy career and over 2000 rushing attempts, so you do have to worry about whether he has gas left in the tank. I like Forte on a 2 or 3-year deal with a modest signing bonus, modest salary, and an ability to escape the contract if he doesn't pan out in Year 1. Forte theoretically fits for his ability to be a factor on all 3 downs. Forte and Ridley shouldn't affect the team's draft plans because both are stopgaps an I believe the team needs to find a long term starter at the position sooner rather than later.

Receiver:

The Patriots have a lot of receivers set for free agency after the 2016 season. Aaron Dobson and Brandon LaFell are headed towards unrestricted free agency and Josh Boyce will be a restricted FA if they make the team in 2016. The Patriots have been looking for a speed element on their offense and drafting players with great athletic measurables that can't play very well in this offense. The closest they got to a successful pick was Aaron Dobson who generated a lot of momentum his rookie year, but has since been snowballed with foot injuries. The Patriots don't have any impending FAs worth retaining at the position and could be looking at importing another WR in free agency in addition towards making a draft selection at the position.

One potential WR that could fit the mold is Giants WR Reuben Randle. Randle was originally to play in an Erhardt-Perkins offense but has spent the last two years in a West Coast offense. Randle brings size and a downfield threat superior to Brandon LaFell, even though their 40 times are very similar. He hasn't posted big numbers although he had a 71-catch, 938-yard season in 2014 and caught 8 TD passes in 2015. Randle's experience in a similar offensive philosophy could help him transition to the Patriots offense considering he was coached by Tom Coughlin, who comes from the same Bill Parcells coaching tree as Bill Belichick.

Cornerback:

The Patriots have a young and talented secondary, but they lack veterans at the position who can fill in when injuries take out those younger players. The Patriots signed Tarell Brown last year to bring a veteran presence, but only was able to play 3 games in 2016 before he suffered a season-ending foot injury. Brown has a litany of foot injuries that have marred his career, so his overall price tag shouldn't be much different in 2016 than 2015 if the Patriots want to retain him. I would prefer the Patriots make a veteran addition at the position for depth reasons and perhaps prepare to draft Logan Ryan's replacement if the opportunity arises in the draft.