One good thing about the Patriots losing the Super Bowl to the Eagles is that there will be more of a sense of urgency this off-season to improve the roster. Had the Pats won, subconsciously they may have said to themselves, “We won a title with this team, we just have to tinker.”
But anyone who watched the Pats from beginning to end this past season knows: this team needs to do more than just tinker. It needs some major changes if it is to be a powerhouse once again.
It was easy to pick on the Patriots secondary in the aftermath of Super Bowl LII. All of Malcolm Butler’s “replacements” were horrible, yes, but the Pats still have talent back there. Stephon Gilmore was excellent down the stretch of the season and in the postseason. Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty might not be elite, but they are both legit starters.
Bottom line is that the Pats need another top-notch cornerback. Butler is gone. No way he’s coming back after what transpired this past week.
The top two cornerbacks on the free agent market will be the Rams’ Trumaine Johnson and the Redskins’ Bashaud Breeland.
Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick is the top defensive back in the draft, but he will go well-ahead of where the Pats are picking at No. 31 in the first round. It’s more likely the Pats go with a cornerback like LSU’s Donte Jackson, Auburn’s Carlton Davis or Colorado’s Isaiah Oliver if they are to tab a CB early in the draft.
Fix the front seven
The Pats will get Dont’a Hightower back from injury in 2018, but this front seven needs much more than that if it is to even become an average unit again.
Enough with the “bend but don’t break” philosophy. As we saw in the Super Bowl, more times than not nowadays the Patriots “break” against good offenses.
Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts and Lawrence Guy are role players. They in no way should be playing nearly every snap in a Super Bowl, which is what they were doing this past Sunday. Having James Harrison on the team was cool, but the guy is going to be 40 in May. Tom Brady might be kicking Father Time’s ass right now, but Harrison is losing that battle and there is a reason the Steelers gave up on one of their all-time best players … Harrison just doesn’t have it anymore.
Unfortunately, the free agent linebacker class is pretty weak this year – though expect the Pats to at least kick the tires on the Jets’ Demario Davis or the Bengals’ Kevin Minter.
The Pats haven’t drafted a linebacker in one of the first two rounds since 2013, when they tabbed Jamie Collins with the 52nd overall pick. The year prior, they picked Hightower with the 25th overall pick.
Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds and BC’s star DE/LB Harold Landry may be available when the Pats pick at No. 31.
There are a good amount of quality linebackers that will be available in the 2018 NFL Draft, so expect the Pats to land at least one of them early.