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How the Patriots draft needs are impacted by free agent signings

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NFL: Green Bay Packers at New York Jets Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

In the NFL offseason, the first step towards building a roster in the new year is free agency. Once again, the Patriots employed their typical approach to free agency: short term and smart contracts to fill immediate holes. The Patriots did not sign any player this year to any contracts longer than 2 years or more than $12M in total, although a lot of that had to do with how tight the team is to the salary cap right now. Most of the Patriots’ signings were re-signing role guys from the last season as well as making a couple new additions at the DT and WR positions.

Defensive tackle less of a priority

The Patriots’ biggest FA signing from an average standpoint was former Packers and Jets DT Mike Pennel. The Patriots have Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler, and Pennel under control through the 2020 season (Butler will be a restricted FA after the season, but NE will likely offer a 2nd round tender to keep teams away). In a draft that’s more DL heavy, the Patriots can afford to wait until the mid to late rounds to pick up someone who can be a solid rotational player at the position. Dexter Lawrence has been a popular mock pick for the Patriots in the first round, although I see that being much less likely than before.

Wide receiver picture still murky

The Patriots are scheduled to have Julian Edelman and Phillip Dorsett as their top two receivers when training camp opens up. Edelman has proven to be the guy who carries the offense time and time again, so him being the top receiver is less of an issue vs. who is playing behind him. While re-signing Dorsett to a deal that maxes out at $2.5M and adding former Redskin Maurice Harris for about $1M, the team has elected to go spaghetti method at the WR position. I still think they will take at least one receiver in the top two rounds of the draft, although at best I see a rookie receiver putting up 40/600/6 in this offense.

Edge Rusher more likely

The Patriots are scheduled to open up 2019 with Michael Bennett, Deatrich Wise Jr., and John Simon as their top three edge rushers with Flowers signing with the Lions and Clayborn released last week. Bennett is 34 while Wise and Simon have two years left of control. The Patriots have room to add a 4th pass rusher, and I’d prefer that roster spot be filled by a guy who projects to be a major part of the rotation in years to come. The Patriots’ last two picks at the position have been mid rounds with Flowers and Wise, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they pick up an edge guy in the 3rd-4th round again.

Keep an eye out for guards

Joe Thuney and Ted Karras are both scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency after the season. Already Dante Scarnecchia is scouting out prospects, reportedly visiting the Boston College pro day to work out Chris Lindstrom. With the Patriots unlikely to keep both aforementioned players in the fold following the season, the team could use an option to sit a year behind Thuney then take over the following season.