While Ryan has some of the natural skills to play safety, one name that perhaps is flying under the radar for the Patriots is Duron Harmon.
Harmon was a third-round pick last year, though some draft gurus believed the Patriots reached for him. He was a fill-in starter for both Gregory and McCourty during injury situations, and our opinion is that he certainly held up.
In terms of strengths, Harmon has good instincts, is a reliable tackler, made good on opportunities to intercept the football last season and is tough. All of those translate well to a strong safety type role for the Patriots.
His limitations are that he's just a sufficient athlete and doesn't have the same range of a player like McCourty. Neither of those is glaring enough to the point that he doesn't have starting potential in the NFL.
So, at least in our view, Harmon would represent a good starting safety for the Patriots alongside McCourty.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of such an arrangement would be that McCourty would stay in his free safety role, something he excels at in preventing downfield throws.
The Patriots' defense was dramatically improved in limiting big passing plays last season after struggles in 2012, and part of that can be attributed to McCourty.
From a cornerback perspective, moving Ryan would leave the Patriots with four strongly competitive players at the position, but Browner will be unavailable for the season's first four games.
While Justin Green flashed at times last season, the team would be better off with its fourth cornerback (in Browner's absence) as either Kyle Arrington, Alfonzo Dennard or Logan Ryan -- depending on how the starting situation shakes out in training camp.
There's a lot of time in between then and now, and the Patriots could continue to address the secondary in the draft. But Harmon is a player worth keeping an eye on.