We’re in the middle of the offseason, but right in the thick of draft season.
However, as much as a roster is built through the draft, free agency is a chance to add or retain key veterans, and in the case of the Patriots, they are one of the better teams in getting the best bang for their buck.
While there have been some swings and misses, most notably with Adalius Thomas, Bill Belichick has a solid track record of finding starters from other teams (Mike Vrabel, Rosevelt Colvin, Rob Ninkovich, Leigh Bodden, Andre Carter, Brian Waters, etc).
Since 2009, the Patriots have drafted many key contributors like Pat Chung, Sebastian Vollmer, Devin McCourty, The Boston TE Party, Brandon Spikes, Nate Solder and Zoltan Mesko and still have some high-upside prospects like Shane Vereen and Ras-I Dowling waiting in the wings.
This past season highlighted the recent draft success, but also revealed some weaknesses, particularly the team’s failure to draft and develop wide receivers. Chad Ochocinco was brought in to fill the void left by Randy Moss, but the former Pro Bowler was an utter bust.
Luckily for the Pats, the wide receiver market is loaded with vertical threats (Mike Wallace), size (Vincent Jackson), youth (Dwayne Bowe) and reliability (Marques Colston).
Beyond the young studs, there are also several veterans, specifically Reggie Wayne, who could latch on for a Super Bowl run and help develop a draft pick.
Although there are many intriguing options available, the Patriots first priority is to figure out what to do with their best receiver – Wes Welker.
Despite a backbreaking drop in the Super Bowl, Welker is clearly one of the most consistent receivers in the league and Tom Brady’s favorite target.
There’s no doubt that Welker will get franchise-tagged with the hopes of hammering out a multi-year deal, however it’s tough to invest a ton of money and years into a 5-foot-9 receiver who doesn’t have elite speed or vertical separation skills even in his prime.
The best option for the Pats would be to sign Welker to a three-year deal similar to the one Randy Moss signed after the 2007 season (3 years, $27 million), although it would probably take something closer to a 3/30 deal.
No matter what, the Pats need Welker back in 2012 and beyond. Once Rob Gronkowski went down in the AFC title game, it was clear the Patriots lacked reliable receiving threats beyond Welker and Aaron Hernandez.
Welker is the best slot receiver in the game, and with Hernandez/Gronk, the Patriots can attack the middle of the field. But in order to open up the middle of the field, they must find a viable outside receiver who can both stretch the field and attack the ball in the air.no comments