If you were a Patriots fan and wanted the big names to come to Foxborough yesterday, it had to have sucked watching them sign elsewhere. The Patriots' modus operandi is building the roster with smart free agent signings and the draft. With all of the big names gone, the Patriots can now turn to the players remaining and try to put together their roster.
RB: CJ Anderson, Khiry Robinson, James Starks, Bobby Rainey, Alfred Morris. Out of this group, the most expensive player to get is CJ Anderson, who is a restricted free agent. The Broncos screwed up by placing a original round tender on Anderson and because of the no loss of draft pick, teams are bidding for him. Morris is the biggest name remaining of this group, but I'd rather go for underutilized players like Robinson, Starks, or Rainey. Robinson could be the #1 RB in the committee that takes much of the early down carries. Starks and Rainey are change of pace guys that have been very successful in GB and TB, but I have doubts about them working in more than a timeshare situation. Patriots are a RBBC, so I don't think that's a deal-breaker.
WR: Rueben Randle, Jermaine Kearse, Percy Harvin, Andre Holmes, Rod Streater. Of this group, I see only Kearse and Randle have a legitimate chance to be consistent in this offense. Randle has previous experience in an Erhardt-Perkins style offense in 2012-2013 when his offensive coordinator was Kevin Gilbride, so he's ahead of the learning curve. Andre Holmes is another familiar name, as he spent time on the Patriots Practice Squad in 2011 and brings length to the receiving corps. Percy Harvin is a name that will always surface every year due to his athletic ability and previous connections to Bill Belichick, but I think the Patriots stay away since that guy cannot stay healthy long enough to be reliable. Rod Streater is a prayer name up there and the if all else fails option and would be nearly a total projection in this offense.
TE: James Hanna, Jeff Cumberland, Clay Harbor, Zach Miller. This isn't a very promising group altogether, but if the Patriots can find a way to snag Hanna, that would be very interesting. I believe Hanna probably would prefer being the #1 TE at his new destination, although the Patriots love to use 2 TE sets when they have the players for it. Cumberland is an interesting name since he seems to have his best games against the Patriots, although that was before Patrick Chung became the league's best coverage player against TEs. Harbor and Miller are two very athletic TEs that never have been able to establish themselves due to health issues. Miller is very underrated, although I suspect he'll return to Chicago where he would be the #1 TE.
OT: Russell Okung, Donald Penn, Andre Smith, Kelvin Beachum. Like with TEs, this is not much of a group to work with. Okung is interesting, but he's had health issues which makes me want to stay away. Donald Penn is as old as Sebastian Vollmer, so that's probably a no-go as well. Andre Smith is the most interesting and the most expensive of the group. The Bengals drafted two tackles with their top two picks in 2015, so there is a good chance he will be available to sign. Smith comes out of the Alabama program in the early Saban era, so you can make that connection to the Patriots if you want. Kelvin Beachum is an interesting buy-low candidate who was a solid LT for Pittsburgh before tearing an ACL in 2015. Beachum is short and lack length, so the Patriots might instead pass on him.
IDL: Akiem Hicks, Nick Fairley, Terrance Knighton, Kendall Reyes, Al Woods. I believe this is a solid group to work with, question comes down to money. Hicks is in a bidding war with 11 teams, including the Patriots so we don't know how this will end. Nick Fairley is an intriguing name, but the question about fit still looms. Terrance Knighton is a big one-dimensional run stuffer, but weight and commitment issues could lower his price tag into the Patriots range. Al Woods is an interesting player, I've heard a lot of good things about him and could emerge in the Patriots rotation. Kendall Reyes is an interesting name as a guy who had early success in San Diego before disappearing in his 3rd year and not making much of an impact afterwards. There are options for the Patriots here.
LB: Shea McClellin, Demario Davis, Kyle Wilbur, Craig Robertson. All three of these players have experience in both 4-3 and 3-4 schemes. The third linebacker isn't going to have much of a role in this defense with the change to a big nickel base defense as opposed to the traditional 4-3 alignment. Ideally you have a guy who can also play on Special Teams, which is where Davis and Wilbur fit in for sure. Robertson has previous ties to Mike Lombardi, so you can't rule him out as an option either. Given how important the linebacker position is for the Patriots defense, quality depth at this position is necessary in case we have a situation where both Hightower and Collins are unavailable like in the middle portion of 2015.
CB: Josh Robinson, Tarell Brown, Marcus Cooper, Casey Hayward. The Patriots need at CB is primarily more due to depth than need of a starter. The Patriots are fine with a starting trio of Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, and Justin Coleman. Now it's entirely possible that the Patriots could go for a reserve CB and special teamer in Marcus Cooper, go for a veteran reserve option in Tarell Brown, or acquire a new starter in Josh Robinson or Casey Heyward. Considering Logan Ryan at the original RFA amount of $1.671M is a big bargain, I suspect they're more likely to look at the first two options. While Ryan somewhat limits the defensive scheme, he's still holding up very well. As with the CB position, you can never have enough capable players available.