Yeah, it’s a little early, but let’s look at some potential free-agent additions for the New England Patriots.
NFL free agency doesn’t begin for another six weeks, but there’s not a whole lot else going on with the Patriots right now, and we’ve already looked at their free agents and offensive and defensive needs.
Here are five players who fit the biggest holes on the Patriots’ roster.
RB KNOWSHON MORENO
The veteran running back sat out in 2015 after tearing his ACL in Week 6 of the 2014 season. The Patriots could elect to sign Moreno, who’s 28, to a one-year, prove-it deal while also drafting a running back of the future.
Moreno averaged 4.8 yards per carry in 2014 for the Miami Dolphins before suffering the season-ending injury. He played in all 16 games in 2013, when he had 241 carries for 1,038 yards with 10 touchdowns and 60 receptions for 548 yards with three more scores for the Denver Broncos.
Moreno certainly wouldn’t be the first veteran running back on whom the Patriots took a chance.
WR MOHAMED SANU
Sanu went to Rutgers as a safety — before moving to wide receiver — in the same recruiting class as current Patriots defensive backs Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon, so it should be completely unsurprising to see him on this list.
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound receiver also has shown versatility (another attribute head coach Bill Belichick values) throughout his college and pro career. He has 152 career receptions for 1,793 yards with 11 touchdowns and 26 rushing attempts for 153 yards with two scores in his four years with the Cincinnati Bengals. He had 210 catches for 2,263 yards, 125 rushing attempts for 653 yards and 25 total scores in three years at Rutgers. He can line up outside, in the slot and in the backfield.
The Patriots showed interest in various high-profile free-agent receivers in 2015, including Stevie Johnson and Brian Hartline. I’d expect them to do the same this offseason after Brandon LaFell struggled.
OT MITCHELL SCHWARTZ
It’s always safe to connect Rutgers players to the Patriots, just as it’s sound to link any Cleveland Browns to New England. Schwartz played for the Browns while Michael Lombardi, now an assistant to the Patriots’ coaching staff, was general manager in 2013.
The Patriots have signed ex-Browns Jabaal Sheard, Dion Lewis, Brian Tyms, Ishmaa’ily Kitchen and Eric Martin since Lombardi came back to New England.
Schwartz is one of the best offensive tackles on the open market, so he could be out of the Patriots’ price range. But if they decide to part ways with Sebastian Vollmer, Schwartz would be a fine replacement.
DT AKIEM HICKS
So, we’re kind of cheating on this one, because Hicks is a Patriots free agent, but he’s the best defensive tackle fit on the open market. The issue might be cost, because Hicks has shown in the majority of his four NFL seasons that he’s a highly valuable player. It was only during the first part of the 2015 season with the New Orleans Saints, before he was traded to the Patriots, that he wasn’t.
If the Patriots are looking at a lower-cost player, Mike Martin of the Tennessee Titans could be appealing.
LB ROLANDO MCCLAIN
The Patriots showed interest in signing McClain last offseason, but that was before he was suspended four games for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse program. The Alabama product is a highly talented player who would fit in as the Patriots’ No. 3 linebacker, however.
If the Patriots wanted to shoot for the stars here, another former SEC linebacker, Denver Broncos linebacker Danny Trevathan, will be a free agent.
Thumbnail photo via Andrew Weber/USA TODAY Sports Imagse