Patriots Free-Agent Wish List: Which Positions Should Be a Priority?

Curran: Here's who's on our Patriots free-agent wish list originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Earlier this week, newly-minted Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer was speaking to the Jacksonville media.

That’s one of the things you have to do when you’re A) new to the NFL B) employed by a forgettable franchise and C) give a crap what anyone thinks.

Anyway, while ol’ Urb (as his friends apparently call him) was holding Zoom, he said the following.

“I always believe you build your team around the defensive line, and then you move backwards — so that’s what we’re going to do. . . . There is one commonality of great teams: they have great defensive lines.  You can’t avoid that. There are ways to hide other things, but you have to have a strong defensive line. We’re committed to do that here.”

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Why in God’s name are we mining the musings of Urban Meyer to write a Patriots-related story? A) Because his statement dovetails nicely with something I’ve been saying. B) He is a FOBB (Friend of Bill Belichick) and perhaps they share this opinion. C) Any port in a storm.

Free agency opens next Wednesday. And when it does, the Patriots should run right to the defensive line aisle.

That was my contention on Tuesday’s edition of Tom Curran’s Patriots Talk Podcast when Phil Perry and I talked about a Patriots 2021 Free Agent Wish List.

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Why do I think defensive line is the spot to start? Because the Patriots are likely to lose Adam Butler, one of their best interior pass rushers. They may lose Lawrence Guy, their best interior defender for the past three seasons. They could also lose the occasionally productive Deatrich Wise who is the kind of free agent I’d bet on for low-risk, high return possibility.

Even with those guys in 2020, they were getting run on with relative ease in some key games. In seven of their final eight games, opposing offenses averaged more than four YPC. There were six games last season where teams ran for more than five YPC.

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You know how much bad flows from that? The offense is always ahead of the sticks, meaning they have the whole playbook open to them. You need more bodies in the box. The secondary has more stress placed on it. And you get those long-ass deflating drives with easy third-down conversions and eventually red zone touchdowns.

The Patriots tried last year to replace Danny Shelton with Beau Allen last year. Beau never saw the field. This year, I want them to get real aggressive. And that means extracting Leonard Williams – franchised by the Giants on Tuesday – via trade. Too rich? Take his teammate Dalvin Tomlinson.

Tomlinson was a second-round pick in 2017 out of Alabama and has started all 64 games during that span. He had 28 pressures in 2020 and four sacks. He’s a pocket-collapser at 6-3, 317 but even better he is a run-stopping force.

Phil? He’s keeping it simple. There’s a gaping hole at receiver. Start spackling. Corey Davis and Curtis Samuel are a pair of targets he liked.

That sentiment was the same as most of the respondents in the Twitter poll I posted on Wednesday morning.

Everybody wants the wideout.

Phil stayed on offense with his second priority and stayed with the obvious. Quarterback. "What good is a wideout if you have nobody to throw it to them?" he mused. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jameis Winston are two guys Phil named but really, everyone’s in play and all of them are throwing upgrades over Cam Newton.

I stayed on defense and feel real good about this possibility: Trey Hendrickson, Edge. Hendrickson had 13.5 sacks last year for the Saints, he’s got a non-stop motor and is just starting to bloom after being a full-time starter for the first time last year.

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Finally, with my third wish, I flipped back to offense. Maybe there’s so much work to do over there I don’t know where to start. I settled on wideout, though. Soon-to-be-former Panther Curtis Samuel is the player I’d chase. He reminds me a bit of Danny Amendola. Surehanded as hell. Acrobatic. Productive on third downs. Quarterback's best friend type.

Issue is, he may be a $40M player. But on an offense where the team has a grand total of ONE skill position player on the 2021 books with a salary over $2M (Julian Edelman, $2.8M), at some point, you either pay the going rate or you watch more bad offense. Besides, Samuel will fit nicely with Newton when he re-signs. Joking, not joking.

And Phil? As is his wont, he stayed on offense with a tight end. Jonnu Smith and/or Gerald Everett. There are no wrong answers, folks. Just varying degrees of rightness.

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