1. Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson is thinking about retiring from the NFL, which would put him firmly in the what could have been category, alongside fellow Lions running back Barry Sanders. Johnson is only 30-years-old and is coming off a quality 88-reception, 1,214 yard, and 9 touchdown season, but he believes that the injuries he has sustained over the course of his career might outweigh his desire to return to the field.
Naturally there are many who think the Patriots could be a great fit. The Patriots acquired receiver Randy Moss when he was 30-years-old in 2007 and revitalized his career. The big issue is Calvin's albatross contract, valued at $67.7 million over the next four seasons, or roughly $17 million per year.
That's insane and is never going to happen.
Of course, part of the Moss trade included a restructure in his contract. Moss changed his 2-year, $21 million contract down to a 1-year, $3 million deal with $2 million in incentives. It would take a Moss-like change in order for Calvin to ever make it to New England.
2. While wide receiver is a definite position of need for the Patriots, so is the running back role. Bears running back Matt Forte has expressed a desire to pursue championships instead of returning back to Chicago. "It's not even about the money," Forte said, via NFL.com. "I want to be in the Super Bowls."
Forte collected 1,287 yards from scrimmage over 13 games last season, and the 6'1, 220 lbs running back is a top tier rusher and receiver. He has also been extremely durable, missing just 8 games over his 8-year career. He would immediately step in and thrive within the offense.
3. And if you have any hesitation that the Super Bowl is the Patriots ultimate goal in 2016, just as the father of Tom Brady.
"He has a countdown clock in his gym that is now ticking to next year's Super Bowl," Tom Brady Sr. told CSSNE's Tom Curran about his son.
Forte fills a big hole for the Patriots if they don't feel convinced about any of the running backs in the draft. If Forte is willing to sign for a lower-value contract, he could become a valuable part of the New England rotation. The Patriots were willing to sign Steven Jackson off his couch; Forte is ready to play.
4. If you look across the Patriots roster, there are really just three positions up in the air: starting running back. X receiver, and then interior line.
While running back Dion Lewis is hopeful to return for camp, ACLs can take a little time to shake off the rust. It took Rob Gronkowski until week 4 of the 2014 season to be back at 100% after tearing his ACL, and no position needs healthy knees more than at running back. The Patriots need a second option.
Brandon LaFell, Aaron Dobson, and Brian Tyms leave a lot to be desired at X receiver. The triplet offense of Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, and Keshawn Martin isn't going to force any defense to respect the intermediate sidelines, which really limits the offense.
The offense line, while not great in 2015, is actually pretty set moving forward. Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer will be the starting tackles, while Shaq Mason, Bryan Stork, and then a mix of Josh Kline, Tre Jackson, or David Andrews will be the interior. The Patriots could bring in a veteran guard to fight for a spot (I'm thinking captain Ryan Wendell could return and possibly start), but it's very possible for this roster battle to be decided by those already on the roster.
5. I went through every single roster in the league to determine a weighted-average age for each team. I went back into the data to sort by position and to see where the Patriots compared to the rest of the league. The Patriots have the 9th youngest secondary in the league and the 3rd youngest offensive line. The team only has two positions that are above the league average in age: quarterback and wide receiver.
Tom Brady was the oldest quarterback in the league to play the full season, but Jimmy Garoppolo is the young back-up.
New England also boasted the 4th oldest group of wide receivers, behind just the Falcons, Lions, and 49ers. The Falcons had the 34-year-old Roddy White, the Lions had the 30-year-old Johnson and 32-year-old Lance Moore, and the 49ers had the 35-year-old Anquan Boldin.
The trio of Brandon LaFell, Julian Edelman, and Danny Amendola will all be nearing their 30s in 2016 and the 25-year-old Keshawn Martin is the only receiver in the wings. The Patriots really need to find a young receiver to be the future of this position group.