Now that the Super Bowl is over, it is time to direct our full attention to free agency. There are a lot of quality players out there, and I expect the Pats to make a few moves starting in just over a month.
The Patriots need a playmaker on offense, and while Julian Edelman had a great 2013 season, signing someone like Emmanuel Sanders instead of number 11 would be a much better idea. Sanders has improved every year in the NFL, and in 2013 he set a career high in catches, yards, and touchdowns. Tom Brady needs a guy that can beat one on one press coverage, and Sanders has shown that he can do that. Danny Amendola can handle the slot (if he can stay healthy), and when you throw in Josh Boyce, Aaron Dobson, and Kenbrell Thompkins, you would have a pretty nice receiving core. With the correct development (and health), Dobson could become a legit vertical threat, and Boyce flashed a lot of potential in the few games he was active this past season. When you add in Sanders, the Pats instantly become a matchup nightmare again, and even more so if Gronkowski returns completely healthy. As we saw in Sunday’s Super Bowl, you are going to need someone that can beat man coverage over and over again, especially on the outside.
Teams that face the Patriots always clog up the middle of the field, which is great, but it leaves the outside exposed. The only problem is the Pats haven’t had a guy that can take advantage of this since Randy Moss, and it is a big reason why they haven’t won a Super Bowl since 2004. Emmanuel Sanders can beat coverage on the outside, and I am hopeful of what Dobson will be able to do as well. Another positive that Sanders brings to the table, is his versatility. He isn’t just an outside the numbers guy, as he can move into the slot and do some damage there too. This will give opposing defenses even more trouble with this unit, specifically when linebackers get matched up with the explosive Sanders. And if Amendola gets injured again, Sanders can slide inside and keep the slot position productive for the Patriots.
If it is at all possible, I would love to see Edelman back in Foxboro. But I would rather see the Pats make some noise this offseason, by getting an explosive wide receiver. Edelman just doesn’t have the athletic skills of a Sanders, and having a former quarterback as your top receiver won’t cut it in today’s NFL. Sanders has never been a true number one receiver in Pittsburgh, and I am sure that he would jump at the chance to not only play on a successful team, but also have the opportunity to be the number one guy in Tom Brady’s group of receivers.