Patriots should re-sign LeGarrette Blount, target Jermaine Kearse

Matt Claassen previews free agency for the New England Patriots, identifying who to res-sign, let walk, and target.

| 10 months ago
(AP Photo/AJ Mast)

(AP Photo/AJ Mast)

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.

Re-sign

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.

Let walk

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.

Target

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.

| Analyst

Matt has been an analyst for PFF since 2013. He is also a contributor to 120 Sports and a former NCAA Division-III football player.

  • John

    Man, this article is so off the mark.
    -Why should they re-sign Blount? The guy is very good against the Colts, he doesn’t do much against the rest of the league. It is time to develop a good young running back from scratch.
    -As far as the o-line is concerned, the biggest issue they have is replacing Vollmer at the end of the 2016 season. BB doesn’t like keeping offensive linemen into their mid thirties. The good news is that they can select a developmental prospect to take over at RT next year.
    -They should be targeting Sean Smith. His presence would make them into a top five defense and it would allow them to move Logan Ryan back to the nickel position.
    -This article also neglects to mention that they need depth at linebacker. With Mayo now retired they have nothing of value behind Hightower and Collins. If they can find a moderately priced middle linebacker, that would be a helpful acquisition.

    • crosseyedlemon

      The Patriots were the only team to exercise the George Allen strategy of passing on a first round draft pick so I already like their chances for next year.

    • Jack Casey

      They said they should resign Blount for near minimum money. Why wouldn’t they want him back for that? Yes, I want them to draft a true complete RB, but very team in the NFL could use a serviceable power back like Blount for cheap money.

      Would love Sean Smith, don’t see them paying for him. Should have kept Talib for ~ $9m.

      Not too worried about LB. Between the amount of nickel they play, plus being able to bounce back and forth from 4-3 and 3-4, a third off the line ‘backer isn’t the most pressing need. Wonder if Bostic has a chance to make the team with almost a year in the organization.

      • John

        The reason that I would object to re-signing Blount is the fact that they don’t have a lot of cap room right now. Mayo’s retirement will help, but they need to use that money cautiously. Now, if they release some more players (Chandler or LaFell) then I wouldn’t object to bringing in Blount on a light contract.
        As per the linebacker issue, I agree that they do not necessarily need to have three starters, seeing as they use more nickel packages. My thinking is that Hightower and Collins are coming off of injury plagued seasons. When they are out of the lineup, the run defense really takes a nosedive. That’s why I believe they should bring in a run stopping LB. I’m not saying you need the next Luke Keuchly, but it wouldn’t be bad to have someone do what Brandon Spikes used to do.

        • Jack Casey

          Yeah there will definitely be some cuts coming.. I already consider Chandler cut.. I was never really excited about that signing in the first place. I literally heard some people saying “Now we have two Gronks” when we signed him, which was mind blowing to me. He is pretty much just a guy. The free agent acquisition I was excited about was Jabaal Sheard. He didn’t disappoint me.

          I also think there is a good chance LaFell will be gone. When you fall behind Keshawn Martin on the depth chart, it doesn’t look good for you.

          Also believe Dobson could be out of time. He will have to really show something in Camp/preseason to be back IMO.

          Even Amendola could be gone. I think he may have to take a pay cut to stay. We are going to need some WRs by way of the draft and or free agency.

          Wouldn’t be surprised if Cannon is gone either.

      • T D

        They don’t need a corner all their problems exist on the o-line.

        • RandomGuy

          No they need a corner as well.

          • snoth cambin

            Not as much as they need an offensive line.

          • RandomGuy

            Noooo the O-Line needs to get healthy. They need bodies at Corner.

    • RandomGuy

      – the guy put up a solid 4-5 yard average when he played in rotation. If they can get him cheap, then I would.
      – good idea
      – probably didn’t forget. This is a free agency prediction. There is always the draft.