Nov 24, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick watches from the sideline as they take on the Denver Broncos in the fourth quarter at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Assessing Patriots' Needs After Vince Wilfork Re-Structures Contract

Sep 12, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork (75) during the fourth quarter against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium. The New England Patriots won 13-10. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

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.

5. Linebacker

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.

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  • Paul V. Suffriti

    The Pats need to seriously upgrade the interior O-line…..depth behind Connolly and Wendell is not the answer….the starters have to be able to protect Brady and run block effectively.

    • Willy

      Wendell is a free agent & unlikely to return to the Pats. They may move Connolly over to Center, creating a need at Guard. And the depth they have at Guard is there but stink in quality IMO. They could still bring in a Free Agent but I also see them drafting 1 O-lineman.

      • Paul V. Suffriti

        ….possible draft pick in the 3rd round….Weston Richburg – C – Colorado State

        • Willy

          Yup, I have him on my board & really like the player.

        • Mattia Rizzo

          The thing is it could be gone before, and that’s also for other top graded Cs. NE is not the only team that could be desperate for a center in the draft. I still think Wendell will come back cheap.

          • Cyrus Geller

            Yup Wendell is back. He is the best center currently available, so it was smart of the Pats to bring him back. But they should still look for a potential future replacement in the draft.

  • Willy

    Though I dont agree with the order of this list (I highly doubt the Pats usea 1st round pick on a TE), I completely agree with the content & positions needed. IMO LB must be moved up on this list, I encourage everyone to look at expanded football stats to see why the Pats desperately need to improve at LB (among other defensive positions). I would add 2-3 more positions of need, an outside WR, a Safety & a RB but they are at the end of the draft type needs (but could still be filled in Free Agency). Good job on this article though, keep up the good work.

    • Cyrus Geller

      Appreciate that Willy. Thanks for reading.

  • Mattia Rizzo

    IMO is still early to change priorities, we don’t know which player Wilfork will be this season.

    • Cyrus Geller

      Definitely. But assuming he is at least 75% (no pun intended), that instantly elevates TE and DE to the top. Silver lining in his injury last year was it allowed some other guys to gain experience.

      • Mattia Rizzo

        At this point, with Blount gone, they should add a defensive lineman, and I’m looking at Ayers, so that they can draft more calmly and get out from the first round.