ESPN's, nee Grantland's, Bill Barnwell has an interesting post that highlights the five moves that the AFC East teams have to make this offseason.
The Patriots have the following five moves to make according to Barnwell, along with my commentary.
1. Release Jerod Mayo - This article was published prior to Mayo's retirement, but the goal in moving on from Mayo was to open up plenty of salary cap space. Mission accomplished.
2. Cut Marcus Cannon and Brandon LaFell - I'm on the record saying that LaFell should absolutely not be released, but given another offseason to compete. Cannon is a whole other animal that will need to restructure his contract if he's going to stick around. Patriots could free up roughly $3.2 million in cap space by moving on from Cannon. They could use that cap space for a better swing tackle in free agency, and have room to spare.
3. Extend Jamie Collins, Dont'a Hightower, and Chandler Jones - These extensions are the core of why the Patriots didn't retain cornerback Darrelle Revis. Jones is the least likely to receive an extension, but keeping all three would be in the best interest of the defense.
4. Sign a veteran offensive lineman - Barnwell points to the interior line as being in need for a veteran touch, and it's hard to disagree. The team has a lot of youth with Bryan Stork, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Tre Jackson, and Josh Kline. A veteran could stabilize the interior as these players continue to adjust to the NFL level of play.
5. Pass up on signing Matt Forte and replace LeGarrette Blount - The Patriots don't need Forte, one of the few backs in the league worse in short yardage situations than Blount. They need a short-yardage back that can grind it out between the tackles.
Overall, I think Barnwell has a pretty great list for the Patriots this offseason. A new pounding running back is the biggest open need on the roster, while the team could do well to help the youth on the roster, either via extension or via a veteran mentor.
While I disagree with how to handle LaFell, I certainly understand the opposite side.
What are your thoughts?