ESPN asked their beat writers what they think the biggest need in the 2018 offseason for the team they cover and the venerable Mike Reiss gave the following response for the New England Patriots.
Add depth at linebacker (and find the next Jimmy Garoppolo)
The Patriots have pieced things together in their front seven this season, but it’s hard to imagine they will enter 2018 without a significant change at their off-the-line linebacker spot, given Dont’a Hightower’s injury history and the struggles they’ve had personnel-wise behind him.
Meanwhile, after feeling they had taken things as far as they could with Garoppolo, the Patriots have to look hard at the next succession plan behind Tom Brady, who will be 41 years old when next season starts.
The Patriots definitely need help at linebacker as they’ve seen how the loss of Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, and Shea McClellin created a huge vulnerability for the defense. They need a linebacker capable of covering running backs out of the backfield and controlling the line of scrimmage; they don’t necessarily need another pass rusher.
Bill Belichick has a prototype at linebacker and he would prefer someone 6’2 or taller and 240 pounds or heavier. Some players like Georgia’s Roquan Smith and Alabama’s Rashaan Evans will likely be off the board by the time the Patriots pick in the first round, but there looks to be plenty of options in the second and third round to help with the Patriots’ depth like Iowa’s Josey Jewell, Texas’ Malik Jefferson, USC’s Cameron Smith and Uchenna Nwosu, VT’s Tremaine Edmunds, Ohio State’s Jerome Baker, and UVA’s Micah Kiser.