Where do Patriots go from here?
August, 1, 2011
By Mike Reiss | ESPNBoston.com
After their aggressive moves to acquire defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth and receiver Chad Ochocinco, and now agreeing to terms with left tackle Matt Light, a prevalent question on Twitter has been: What do the Patriots still need?
Then there's always the follow-up: How do their moves stack up against the rival Jets? Jets coach Rex Ryan stoked some of the rivalry talk Monday, saying, "I think we have to find somebody out there to beat New England besides us."
I don't think the Patriots have a glaring need when comparing the roster to the NFL's other 31 clubs. Maybe a little more depth on the defensive line/outside linebacker would help, but overall, I think the team is once again in position to be a top contender. That's not to say there aren't available players who could make them better, but when factoring in economics and the reality of the salary cap, I'd be surprised at another big Ochocinco/Haynesworth-type splash.
Assuming good health through the preseason, I think the next big thing that can help the Patriots is getting second-round draft choices Ras-I Dowling (cornerback) and Shane Vereen (running back) under contract, as I see both being contributors on the 46-man game-day roster.
Then I'd strongly consider bringing back veteran tight end Alge Crumpler once he returns to full health, if the sides can agree on compensation. Crumpler helped in the running game and was a strong locker-room presence who was voted a captain. We heard all last offseason about the importance of the locker-room dynamic (it was shaky in 2009) and with the additions of Haynesworth and Ochocinco, I think a veteran presence like Crumpler would have value to the club.
As for the Jets, and comparing them to the Patriots, I see both sides taking risks.
On the Jets' side, I like receiver Santonio Holmes and cornerback Antonio Cromartie more when they're playing for a contract than after they've received one. On the Patriots' side, it all looks good now with Ochocinco and Haynesworth, but true colors will usually shine through in trying times and Haynesworth didn't respond in those times the last two years.
For now, I'd give a slight edge to the Patriots based on their offseason moves, mainly because if Haynesworth comes through (a big if), I think he is going to change some of the things they do, make it harder to run on them, and give them a better chance to pressure.