Now that the Vince Wilfork situation is cleared up, we can now really begin to dissect the top needs for the Patriots.
1. Tight End
Defensive tackle is still a big need, but the lack of depth at the tight end position is more concerning. Rob Gronkowski should be ready to go for the season opener, but there is still plenty of questions surrounding his recovering. Michael Hoomanawnaui is the only other tight end currently available for the Pats and while he is a capable backup, he is not effective at all in the passing game. Tom Brady needs another mismatch to pair with Gronkowski, and it has to come in this year’s draft.
2. Defensive End
Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich are terrific starters, but the lack of depth, and lack of veteran pass rushing presence on the edge really hurt New England in 2013. Jones and Ninkovich need their rest, but at the same time, the production can’t drop off when they come off the field. Bill Belichick’s secondary looks like it will be elite next year, but a lack of pass rush will allow quarterbacks to expose even the best defensive backfields.
3. Defensive Tackle
If Tommy Kelly and Vince Wilfork are healthy, this position is set. Those two form a formidable starting duo, and because of their absence in 2013, New England has formed a nice pool of talent behind them. Chris Jones and Sealver Siliga are the top two guys in my opinion, and if the Pats can get anything out of Armond Armstead, the middle of that defense will be just fine. With that said, if either Kelly or Wilfork don’t return completely healthy, Belichick and company should look to add more talent to shore up the front four.
4. Offensive Line
Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell were pretty bad last year, and while it may be too late to completely replace them, adding quality depth behind them in case they continue to stink up the joint may be a good idea.
The starting group is solid, but there is not depth behind them. Losing Dane Fletcher was a big blow, because he could come in and defend the pass extremely well, while also holding up against the run. If one of the starters goes down, Steve Beaharnais would have to step in, and I don’t think the Patriots want that to happen. Look for New England to add depth here as the offseason continues.