Jan 20, 2013; Foxboro, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker (83) catches a pass for a touchdown in the second quarter of the AFC championship game against the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports
With all of the attention being focused on the scouting combine and the upcoming NFL Draft, I think Pats fans may be losing a little bit of perspective on what occurred in 2012. We had a team that finished second in the AFC with a 12-4 record. We had a team that advanced to their second straight AFC Championship game. We also had a team that fought through some pretty huge injuries throughout the year and still nearly went to the Super Bowl. When looking at these things, I think that the Pats really do not have to do as much as people think to advance to the next level. I hear all sorts of stories flying around concerning the Pats and trading for Mike Wallace, and going after Darrelle Revis, and I just think that people are overreacting a bit. I think the major things that need to happen for the Patriots need to happen within the team. The Pats need to resign their big free agents and add some pieces here and there to try and build their team toward getting back to the Super Bowl.
The three biggest free agents the Pats have are obviously Sebastian Vollmer, Wes Welker, and Aqib Talib. If at all possible I strongly believe that the Patriots should try and keep all three of these players. Whether it is through the franchise tag or if they negotiate a longer term deal, I really think that if the Pats don’t bring back all of these guys, their road to the Super Bowl in 2013 will be much harder. With Wes Welker, I know he is getting up there in age and is not one of those “electric” kinds of players but in my opinion he is the second most important part of the Patriots offense. I have engaged in a lot of arguments on twitter with regards to the Pats keeping Welker or not, and my main point with Welker is that I just remember too many times throughout the year when nobody is getting open except for Welker. If Welker was removed from the offense then I fear that those times when nobody can get open will really come back to bite the Pats in the butt at the worst time. Sebastian Vollmer is one of the most underrated tackles in the league and I think that if he leaves, then we will see Mr. Tom Brady take some serious hits in the 2013. Vollmer recently had some surgery on his knee, and this brings up a common theme with Vollmer throughout his career and that is he seems to be a little injury prone. He fought through a back problem in 2012 that obviously was hurting him, and now this knee issue. However, from what I have read I do not think that the surgery was very serious and from that perspective I think it may allow the Pats to get him at a little bit of a lower price than before. Aqib Talib is their last main guy heading for free agency and he I believe is the “wild-card” of the group. I just have a feeling that a team may come out and throw a lot of money at him because of the year he had in 2012, and he will not be able to refuse. The Patriots do not overpay for anybody, and if there is one reason for Talib not coming back I believe that this may be it. Everybody knows how good of a corner he can be, and I really was amazed by how much he affected the Patriots defense once he was added to their team. The Pats are extremely thin at cornerback, and that makes for even more need for them to try and resign Aqib Talib.
If the Pats are able to resign all three of those players, then that will most likely not leave much cap room for them to sign much of their other free agents. There are however four other low key guys that I think the Pats should focus on trying to resign for 2013: Danny Woodhead, Donald Thomas, Trevor Scott, and Kyle Arrington. After seeing Shane Vereen’s emergence in the AFC Divisional round playoff game, a lot of people were saying that Danny Woodhead was no longer needed on the Patriots roster. I really disagree with this premise mainly because of how dependable we have known Woodhead to be. Woodhead has shown over the last couple of seasons that he is the most reliable pass blocker in the backfield for the Pats, and he has a knack for coming up with the biggest plays at the biggest times. I really am excited for Shane Vereen’s future, but he is a young guy and has not proven himself to be nearly as reliable as Woodhead has been. Donald Thomas is a guy that not many people may know because of his position on the team, and his position on the depth chart. Thomas is a left guard and under perfect circumstances is a backup to Logan Mankins. However, Mankins was out for quite a few games this season and Thomas stepped in and performed extremely well in his absence. One of the keys to every single Patriots game is to protect Brady, and when Mankins went down Thomas helped anchor the line which did a good job in keeping him upright throughout the year. Trevor Scott is also a guy that had to step in because of injuries to other players, and like Thomas he performed great. When Scott was on the field I saw a guy that brought burst and speed to the Patriots defensive line, and I really think he helped the pass rush towards the end of the year. He can get off of the ball quick and disrupt the rhythm and timing of the quarterback in the pocket. Scott and Thomas are guys that most likely won’t draw much interest from other teams because they do not receive a ton of playing time on a regular basis, and I think the Pats can resign them for a reasonable amount of money.
Now Kyle Arrington is a very interesting guy for the Pats. Arrington was obviously outmatched when he had to move to the outside during the 2012 season, and it really showed in the AFC Championship game against the Ravens. However, with this being said I think that the Patriots really found something effective in their secondary when they moved Arrington to the slot. Arrington is a physical aggressive guy, and this really hurts him when playing on the outside. When he moves to the slot he can be aggressive and everything with the opposing receiver and not get burned so much. A combination of Dennard and Talib on the outside, with Arrington on the inside proved to be a very effective combination for the Pats toward the end of the season in 2012. I think the Patriots should look to resign Arrington at a low price to try and see if they can get the same kind of results from him from the slot in 2013.
Like I said earlier, I think the biggest thing for the Patriots is to take care of all of the internal needs. If they do all of this, then they will not need as much help from free agency and the draft as everybody is saying they will. Yes, there will need to be some players added to help boost the level of talent at that position (cornerback), but in general the Pats can take care of most of their needs by focusing on their own guys. By doing all of this I believe the Patriots are well set up for a run to the Super Bowl in 2013.