Hannable: Examining Patriots’ roster and what areas still need to be addressed

Ryan Hannable
March 18, 2019 - 10:53 pm
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Roughly a week into free agency, the Patriots haven’t exactly bolstered their roster a whole lot, but that’s partly because they don’t really need to.

As it stands now, it would appear the vast majority of the Patriots’ roster in 2019 will be the same as it was in 2018. Unless Rob Gronkowski retires, the biggest losses will be Trey Flowers and Trent Brown — both of whom can be replaced eventually.

The quarterback situation is obviously the same, it will be the same running backs room, the offensive line is all returning besides Brown, the linebackers group will remain unchanged, and everybody in the secondary is coming back.

So, what will change, and what needs to happen sooner rather than later?

The Patriots have two major needs that ideally would get addressed as soon as possible — wide receiver and specialists (kicker and punter).

As of Tuesday, the Patriots’ depth chart at wide receiver is as follows: Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, Maurice Harris, Bruce Ellington, Matthew Slater, Braxton Berrios and Damoun Patterson. It’s pretty clear more names, especially proven NFL players need to be added.

Now that the first few waves of free agency have come and gone, the available players aren’t all that great, although some stand out more than others (Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Michael Crabtree). But, don’t count out a potential trade. With six picks in the first 101 overall, the Patriots are in a position to really go out and swing a deal for any receiver that may become available. Some players who could be on the trade block because they are on expiring contracts include A.J. Green, Sterling Shepherd and Nelson Agholor.

Besides wide receiver, the Patriots really need to sure up their kicker and punter situation. The team has invested a lot in special teams in free agency so far, just not to the two most notable positions. 

It would seem like Ryan Allen and Stephen Gostkowski will return, as they remain unsigned, but anything can happen. In both cases, the Patriots could certainly get players for less money at these positions, but the drop off would be significant and could potentially be problematic. Just look across the league every week and how many games get decided on mistakes/misses by kickers. While Gostkowski has missed kicks in recent big games, he’s still a top five kicker in the game. The same goes for Allen -- it’a hard to find many better punters across the league.

While those are the two needs that stand out most, there are a few other positions that need to be solitified.

With Flowers and Malcom Brown already departing, and potentially Danny Shelton to follow, the defensive line likely needs another player or two, and that accounts for Mike Pennel, who the Patriots signed last week. Fortunately for them, the draft is very deep at this position and it feels like that is where they will address this need.

And then it appears Isaiah Wynn will take over for Brown at left tackle, so the Patriots need to make sure they have insurance behind him with a quality backup given he spent his rookie season on injured reserve with a torn Achilles. LaAdrian Waddle appeared to be the perfect player, but he signed with the Bills over the weekend. A rookie wouldn’t make sense in this role, so it appears the team will need to find someone still available via free agency.

Lastly, even if Gronkowski returns, the team still needs to look to get younger at the tight and position and that will likely come by selecting one high in the draft. This position is said to be one of the best in the draft, so it is a good year to have it as a need.

Overall, the Patriots’ 2019 roster is in decent shape, but still needs to make a few additions to feel confident heading into OTAs, minicamp and the eventual real football offseason. 

Related: Here's a potential reason why Ryan Allen remains unsigned