Not every move works out, but the one constant with the New England Patriots is that they approach each offseason with a game plan,
targeting their most pressing needs, and, more often than not, find a
way to execute.
The Patriots became so reliant on their tight ends
last year, which wasn't necessarily a bad thing since Rob Gronkowski
broke records, that their wideouts failed to strike any fear in
opposing defenses. The quest to find a No. 1 wide receiver capable of
causing stress on opposing defenses was a top priority this winter, and
the Patriots made sure to address that need immediately.
New England acquired Donte Stallworth, Jabar Gaffney and Brandon Lloyd to add depth to a position lacking capable
bodies. Stallworth was a solid No. 3 during the team's perfect season
in 2007, while Gaffney played a role as one of Tom Brady's most
reliable targets during his brief tenure with the Patriots.
Lloyd, a former Denver Bronco, has the potential
to develop into a No. 1 threat. With Deion Branch and Wes Welker back
in the fold, this is suddenly a much more respectable group at wide
receiver, which could take some pressure off the tight ends.
In addition to adding new bodies to the fold, the
Patriots also took care of business on the home front, re-signing
center Dan Koppen, offensive lineman Dan Connolly, special teams ace
Matthew Slater and backup quarterback Brian Hoyer. They also franchised
Welker before signing him to a multi-year extension and re-upped with
Gronkowski, locking up two of the team's most important offensive
weapons. In a surprise move, the team also acquired former Giants tight
end Jake Ballard, who won't be able to play until next year at the
The NFL draft also added new talent as the
Patriots retooled up front, selecting Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones and Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower, moves they hope will
solidify a sagging pass rush over the past two years.
The bottom line is the Patriots went out and
addressed their needs, both in the draft and through free agency, and
made sure to take care of the players who are key contributors. The
team looks loaded on paper, but only time will tell how quickly this
group meshes together in training camp.
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