Patriots should re-sign LeGarrette Blount, target Jermaine Kearse
The Patriots don’t have many players set for free agency, and have very few holes to fill compared to most teams. New England also has a limited amount of cap space currently, so they could be limited players in free agency.
Here are a few moves they can make to help their quest for another Super Bowl.
DT Akiem Hicks
Hicks was an above-average run defender with New Orleans, but never had quite the impact one would hope as a starter. After being traded to the Patriots and settling in after a couple of weeks, Hicks was more effective than he had ever been previously. Over the final 10 weeks of the regular season, he ranked in the top 10 defensive tackles in overall grade, run-stop percentage, and pass-rushing productivity.
RB LeGarrette Blount
Dion Lewis and James White will be the top running backs next season, but the Patriots still need a power back. Chris Ivory would be an interesting option, but will likely command more money than they are willing to spend, especially with their cap space. Blount continues to be effective, and his 34 missed tackles forced were his most since joining the team. If New England can bring Blount back on another veteran-minimum contract, he’s their best option among low-priced power backs.
DT Sealver Siliga
Siliga has been a productive run-stopper over his three seasons with the Patriots. He hasn’t offered much as a pass rusher, though, and his 288 snaps were his lowest of the three years. With the plethora of defensive linemen already on the roster, bringing back a one-dimensional player like Siliga might not be worth the money or roster spot.
G Ramon Foster or C/G Manny Ramirez
New England’s offensive line is the most pressing need for the team. Every lineman earned a negative grade in pass protection last season. If left tackle Nate Solder returns healthy, Sebastian Vollmer moves back to right tackle, and both pick up where they had left off, then they should offer a big improvement. The Patriots still could use help in the interior. Shaq Mason and Josh Kline showed well as run-blockers, but both struggled in pass protection.
The price tag for someone like Ramon Foster might be too high for the Patriots, but he would be a significant upgrade. He’s graded above average in pass protection in each of the last five seasons, and had his best year yet as a run-blocker. Alternatively, veteran Manny Ramirez would offer the flexibility to play guard or center, while the coaching staff could continue to work with the younger players.
WR Jermaine Kearse
Brandon LaFell was among the least productive receivers last season. His -9.5 cumulative pass grade during the regular season was third-lowest, and his 21 percent drop rate was the highest in the league. If the Patriots decide to move on, Jermaine Kearse could be an effective option out of a weak field of free agent wide receivers. Seattle had a 126.1 passer rating when targeting Kearse last season, the fourth-highest rating for all wide receivers. He could be a good compliment to Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola.