After losing to the Broncos in the AFC Championship game this season, it is time for the Patriots to look ahead to September. The team has a few glaring needs it must address heading into camp, including a terrible offensive line that cost them a chance at the Super Bowl. Look for the Patriots to add a few veterans to back up their blossoming young defenders, and also make some changes in the offense. Here’s a look at some of the potential moves the Patriots could make to come back even stronger next season:
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Laurinaitis recently became the all-time leading tackler for the St. Louis Rams history. He is a big, strong linebacker that the Patriots could use to replace Jerrod Mayo, who just retired after just eight seasons. Although he has been in the league for awhile, Laurinaitis is only 29 years old and still has some pep in his step. The Patriots have two of the best young linebackers in the league in Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower, but they still need to maintain a veteran presence to replace the leadership of Mayo. As one of the team captains of the St. Louis Rams, Laurinaitis has proven he could be productive in New England.
After his poor performance last season, I think the Patriots will be looking to part ways with running back LeGarette Blount. At the beginning of the season they found a diamond in the rough with Dion Lewis, who unfortunately was lost to an ACL injury. He will be the starting back going into the 2016 season, but the Pats would love to get another veteran back to compliment Lewis. Matt Forte would be the perfect fit for the role. Forte has been one of the best running backs in the NFL in the past decade, and also is only 30 years old. In addition to being a strong back, Forte has caught loads of passes out of the backfield during his years with Chicago, and is a proven workhorse. He has been as durable as any player in the league, and would be a great fit with the Patriots.
Similar to the first two on the list, Weddle is a veteran player who has been with the same team his whole career. He was drafted the same year as Matt Forte, and they have both become leaders on their respective teams. Weddle is known to play like a man possessed and is usually flying around the field making tackles all game. He is coming off two of the best seasons of his career, and he recently said he is looking to play for a contender before he hangs ’em up. Weddle could help develop young safety Duron Harmon while playing along Devin McCourty, who has proven himself to be one of the best in the league. This move could also introduce the threat of heavy-hitters Weddle and Patrick Chung on the field at the same time. Scary stuff if you’re a receiver running across the middle of the field. This pairing could be just what the Patriots need to back up their already strong secondary.
Mohamed Sanu / Marvin Jones / Rueben Randle / Rishard Matthews
These are the receivers that make the most sense for New England coming into the new season. After another season full of drops and inconsistencies, I think Brandon “Butterfingers” LaFell’s time with the Patriots is up. The Cincinnati Bengals might have to choose between re-signing wide receivers Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones, which could open the door for the Patriots to get the odd man out. Both these receivers are tall and have better hands than Lafell (that’s not saying much), and would help make up for the lack of height in the rest of the receiving core (Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman). Rueben Randle will probably not re-sign with the Giants, so the Patriots could look to add him at a cheap price for depth purposes. Rishard Matthews had a coming out party last season and might be the most talent receiver of the bunch, but Miami will look to re-sign him if they can. Matthews is a long shot, but he would be a great fit for the Pats if they could land him.
Build Offensive Line through 2016 Draft
While I was watching the AFC championship game, I could have sworn the Patriots offensive line was just a cardboard cutout of the real thing. On almost every play, the tackles were getting beat to the outside and Tom Brady was getting bundled repeatedly. Marcus Cannon was the worst offender of them all, and it might have proven to be his last chance with New England. If they don’t bring him back, look for the Pats to draft a couple of offensive linemen in the draft. Hopefully these picks will turn out to be better than rookie Cannon and Cameron Fleming, who never really panned out for the Patriots. The draft is a formula that Bellichick and New England have previously used to successfully build the offensive line on their championship winning teams. Don’t look for it to change anytime soon.