Devin McCourty Aqib Talib Chandler Jones It's tough to find quality cornerbacks these days, injury-prone or otherwise. Credit: Getty Images

For the ninth straight season, the Patriots fell short of their season-beginning goal of becoming Super Bowl Champions. In the end for the 2013 campaign, they just didn’t have enough healthy and capable bodies to overcome a more talented Broncos team.

So, what can Bill Belichick do to improve? We’ve got some ideas.

Three free agents to consider:

 

Aqib Talib, CB – You already know what life without Talib looks like. He was injured in the team’s last two AFC Championship games, and opposing teams took advantage right away. Of course, that brings up the question: can he stay healthy? The Pats probably need to gamble on it. Talib is one of the few shutdown corners in the league, and having him around the next few years would solve a huge problem in the secondary.

Eric Decker, WR – We aren’t breaking any news here, but the Patriots need to give Tom Brady better options at wide receiver. Over the last two seasons, Decker has caught 172 balls for 2,352 yards and 24 touchdowns for Denver. Hey, they took a receiver from the Patriots last season, and now it’s time for New England to return the favor.

Tony Gonzalez, TE – Gonzalez has been in the NFL for 17 seasons, and will go down as the greatest tight end of all time. Remarkably, he’s missed just two games in his entire career. It may not take too much coaxing by Belichick to convince Gonzalez to play one more year, and join them in their quest for a Super Bowl – something Gonzalez has never won. With the uncertain health of Rob Gronkowski, Gonzalez would be some much-needed insurance, and someone who can more than fill the void.

Three free agents to let walk:

LeGarrette Blount, RB – We’ve got nothing against Blount, who ran quite beastly at points this season. The problem for burly back is that he’s on a team with two running backs who probably have a higher ceiling in New England, Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen. Blount will likely get paid more by another team that has less depth at running back.

Brandon Spikes, LB – The writing has been on the wall for Spikes for some time now. There have been reports that he and Belichick haven’t seen eye-to-eye on things, and there were also reports that he missed a team meeting during the team’s playoff bye week. Spikes has never been a three-down linebacker, either.

Julian Edelman, WR – It’s pretty simple: the Pats already signed Danny Amendola to a five-year, $28 million deal last season. Both players play mostly inside the numbers, and the Pats need an outside threat. Amendola will have a better 2014 season, and the Pats should spend money elsewhere.

Three players the Pats should consider in the draft:

Yawin Smallwood, ILB – Smallwood, a 6-foot-4, 236-pound junior who hails from Worcester, Mass., had a great season at UConn, where he finished with 118 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, and a pick. He seems like a versatile linebacker who can help in both rush and pass defense.

Anthony Johnson, DT – The Pats’ defensive line put zero pressure on Peyton Manning last Sunday. Experts say Johnson had an underwhelming year at LSU, but that could translate into a nice “value” pick for Belichick.

Zack Martin, OG/T – You can never have too much protection for your most important player, and Martin was tremendous for Notre Dame last fall.

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