Pats perspectives: Receiver a top need?

Free agency begins one month from today, with the typical flurry of player movement expected. One position that is considered deep with talent is wide receiver, which includes Wes Welker among many others.

In scanning the web and offseason forecasts, there appears to be a sentiment that regardless of what happens with Welker, the Patriots will need to add a dynamic, explosive receiver via free agency or the draft.

That's the message from John Harris of Yahoo! Sports, who has released his Patriots positional review, and coupled that with draftable players at each position of need. He believes the team needs to add at least one receiver this offseason, targeting West Virginia's Tavon Austin as an ideal fit because of his suddenness and versatility.

Meanwhile over at the Around The League blog at NFL.com, Gregg Rosenthal echoes Harris' call for the Patriots to add a receiver, and also points to the secondary as an area of need. Of the Patriots' three key free agents, Welker, offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer and cornerback Aqib Talib, he counts on two returning to the team next year, with Talib as his bet to depart via free agency.

Brian McIntyre of Yahoo! Sports has a separate take on the Patriots on the Shutdown Corner blog. He believes the two biggest issues for the Patriots in 2012 were health at key positions and the lack of a consistent pass rush. He notes that the Patriots had four games in which they failed to register a single sack, and their 37 on the season was inflated by a seven-sack outing in Week 17. McIntyre, a cap guru, also notes that the Patriots have just four players with cap numbers over $5 million for next season: quarterback Tom Brady ($18.2 million), nose tackle Vince Wilfork ($10.6 million), guard Logan Mankins ($10 million) and linebacker Jerod Mayo ($5.9 million). He suggests the team could rework Brady's current deal to provide some cap relief: "Due $15 million in cash and signed through 2014, the Patriots could take his $5 million roster bonus and some of his $9.75 million base salary, convert into a signing bonus and extend his contract by a few seasons, perhaps through 2017, which will keep him under contract until he's 40."