The Patriots' pass defense was woeful in 2011, but it was a collective issue that couldn't be pinned on one particular unit. Of course, the cornerbacks had their issues, but they're a young group that has potential going forward.
They've got to believe Devin McCourty will be better in 2012, assuming he's at corner and not safety, and they'll hope Ras-I Dowling can stay healthy after his rookie season was washed out with a hamstring injury. Kyle Arrington was steady and was tied for the league lead with seven interceptions, and Sterling Moore showcased some serious playmaking ability down the stretch.
The Patriots will still add another piece to the group, and if they decide to do it through free agency, they'll have a talented crop to digest.
Head of the Class
1. Brandon Carr: The Chiefs made an interesting decision to sign Stanford Routt last week, which will give Carr the opportunity to start a bidding war. He's a very good cornerback who will deserve the contract he's about to get.
2. Lardarius Webb: The 26-year-old is really athletic and has blossomed over the last two seasons. Webb is a restricted free agent, so the Ravens are in control of his rights. However, if there's anyone worth a first-round pick in free agency, Webb might be it.
3. Carlos Rogers: He really revived his career with a stop in San Francisco, and after making his first Pro Bowl, Rogers should land some nice money in free agency. He turns 31 in July, though, so he could be affordable for teams that don't want to chase the younger crop of free-agent corners.
4. Brent Grimes: Not bad for a guy who was undrafted out of Shippensburg University. Grimes is the Falcons' top priority this offseason, so it might be tough to pry him out of Atlanta.
Diamond in the Rough
Terrell Thomas is a known commodity, but he tore his ACL last summer and likely won't get a hefty contract because of that. If there's a team that can lock him up on a two-year deal, they'll do well to land a bright young cornerback.
Fit for New England
It'd be surprising if the Patriots broke the bank for one of the elite cornerbacks mentioned above, but someone like Cortland Finnegan could be more their style. He's hardnosed and plays with some anger, and that would add a mean streak to New England's defense. However, the Patriots probably wouldn't add a starting-caliber corner unless they decided to move McCourty to safety.
If the Patriots are interested in a veteran role player, Ronde Barber could be an asset. He's really effective in the slot, and since he's turning 37 in April, he shouldn't have any misconceptions about his playing time.
1. Former Patriots cornerback Jonathan Wilhite is a free agent after a season with the Broncos. Denver head coach John Fox was asked about Wilhite during a Week 15 conference call with the New England media, and Fox merely responded, "He's had a role as a defensive back." It wasn't the most ringing endorsement.
2.Tracy Porter, who had the game-sealing interception in Super Bowl XLIV, is coming off a tough year in New Orleans, but he should bounce back.
3. Antwaun Molden and Nate Jones are free agents after their first seasons with the Patriots.
4. Benny Sapp, who was cut by the Dolphins after getting stiff-armed by Wes Welker during his 99-yard touchdown, is a free agent after spending the end of his season in Minnesota.
5. Pacman Jones is on the open market again. His career has been a disaster.
6. Reggie Corner is aptly named.
7. Marcus Trufant, Rashean Mathis and Jason Allen are three veterans to watch. At this point in their respective careers, they're live bodies more than anything else.