NFL teams can begin legally tampering with free agents starting Monday at noon. That should give the New England Patriots a better sense of which players they’ll be able to bring back in free agency.
Before the craziness starts, let’s take a look at the Patriots’ depth chart excluding their 13 unrestricted free agents to see how the team looks heading into the offseason.
Starter: Tom Brady
Reserves: Brian Hoyer
The Patriots need a developmental quarterback to serve as Brady’s eventual successor. That player should be drafted in the first three rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Starter: James White
Reserves: Mike Gillislee, Brandon Bolden
Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead are free agents. The Patriots definitely need to add two or three players to the above group before training camp. Both White, as a passing back, and Gillislee, as a pure runner, are too one-dimensional.
Starter: James Develin
The Patriots are set at fullback.
Starters: Julian Edelman, Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan
Reserves: Malcolm Mitchell, Phillip Dorsett, Kenny Britt, Riley McCarron, Cody Hollister
The Patriots certainly should look to re-sign free agent Danny Amendola, but even if they can’t, they’re set for 2018 at wide receiver. It wouldn’t be shocking to see the Patriots address this position in the draft, however, with Cooks and Hogan a year away from entering free agency.
Starter: Rob Gronkowski
Reserves: Dwayne Allen, Jacob Hollister, Will Tye
Allen, who carries a $5 million cap hit, still could be released before free agency. Hollister and Tye carry upside, but given the uncertainty surrounding Gronkowski’s future, the Patriots should look to upgrade at this position.
Starters: Marcus Cannon, Cole Croston
Reserves: Antonio Garcia, Andrew Jelks
If the Patriots can’t re-sign free agent Nate Solder, then they likely will have to spend a first-round pick at this position. Cameron Fleming and LaAdrian Waddle also are free agents. The Patriots don’t want to have to count on Croston, Garcia, Jelks, Fleming or Waddle as full-season starters.
Starters: Joe Thuney, Shaq Mason
Reserves: Ted Karras, Croston, Jason King, Chase Farris
The Patriots should be set here. Mason is a year away from free agency, however, and he could earn big money on the open market. So, the Patriots could use a draft pick to get out ahead of Mason potentially leaving.
Starter: David Andrews
Reserves: Karras, James Ferentz
The Patriots should be all set here.
Starters: Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise
Reserves: Derek Rivers, Eric Lee, Keionta Davis, Geneo Grissom
The Patriots also could use defensive tackle Lawrence Guy at defensive end on early downs and linebackers Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Shea McClellin and Harvey Langi as pass rushers. Still, the Patriots should add at least one more traditional defensive end, especially with Flowers set to hit free agency in a year.
Starters: Danny Shelton, Malcom Brown
Reserves: Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler, Vincent Valentine
The Patriots are looking good here, though Shelton and Brown would become free agents in a year if New England elects not to pick up their fifth-year options.
Starters: Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy
Reserves: Elandon Roberts, Shea McClellin, Harvey Langi, Nicholas Grigsby, Brandon King
On paper, Hightower and Van Noy are solid starters. Hightower is injury prone, however, and both players are best utilized with versatility as off-the-line linebackers and edge rushers. The Patriots should add a more athletic option into this group to help out in coverage.
Starters: Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe
Reserves: Jonathan Jones, Cyrus Jones, Ryan Lewis, Jomal Wiltz
The Patriots could do better than Rowe as their No. 2 at this position. He’s better suited as a No. 3. We’ve set up this depth chart in a big nickel with three safeties. Rowe, Jones, Jones and Lewis do still provide some untapped potential.
Starters: Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon
Reserves: Jordan Richards, David Jones, Damarius Travis
The Patriots should look to add a better No. 4 safety who can bring some versatility to play either linebacker or slot cornerback in sub packages.
K Stephen Gostkowski, P Ryan Allen, LS Joe Cardona
The Patriots might choose to bring in some competition on special teams, but it’s not necessary.