Patriots

Patriots

The Patriots lost out on the Aqib Talib sweepstakes. It looks like they were never in on the Richard Sherman sweepstakes. And the Vontae Davis sweepstakes came and went seemingly without Bill Belichick so much as looking up from his morning cup of OJ.

PATS MAKE A MOVE


So what now? We ranked the Patriots need at corner at a 7 out of 10 earlier this offseason. That's not insignificant, but it's still lower on the chain than spots like left tackle, quarterback, edge defender and linebacker . . . in our opinion.

Here's a quick-hitting look at where the Patriots go from here now that they know they won't be welcoming either Talib or Sherman to Gillette Stadium.

WHAT THEY HAVE: They have their No. 1 in Stephon Gilmore. He didn't play like a top-tier cover man early in the season, but as the Patriots went to more and more man-to-man looks, he thrived. Eric Rowe looks at times like a very capable No. 2. (Remember when he started over Malcolm Butler in Week 2 and then looked like Gilmore's replacement in Week 4 until injuring his groin?) Rowe can also play in the slot. As can Jonathan Jones, who early in the season drew more praise from Belichick than any of his teammates at the position. Cyrus Jones lost his sophomore season to a knee injury and will need earn a role defensively. He won't be handed one. Ryan Lewis and Jomal Wiltz were practice-squadders who re-signed following the Super Bowl.

WHAT'S OUT THERE IN FREE AGENCY: Trumaine Johnson's fate was sealed when the Rams picked up Talib. He'll hit free agency, and he'll likely slot in as the highest-paid corner in the class if he can beat out Sherman's reported $13 million average annual value on his new deal with the Niners. Jeremy Lane, another victim of Seattle's recent purge, is available. Same goes for EJ Gaines, Prince Amukamara, Adam Jones and Morris Claiborne. If the Patriots want a slot corner, they could look at Patrick Robinson (who they just saw in the Super Bowl) or Nickell Robey-Coleman. With needs at other positions, they may have to tread lightly here.

 

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WHAT'S OUT THERE IN THE DRAFT: Let's put a few names aside here since they'll be long gone by the back half of the first round. Alabama's Swiss Army-knife type Minkah Fitzpatrick could be the first defensive back off the board. Ohio State's Denzel Ward will give him a run for his money there. Iowa's Josh Jackson will likely be off the board at some point midway through Day 1 as well. Still, there are some intriguing athletes at this position this year. Maybe there are enough to entice the Patriots to dip their toes in at some point on the first two days of the draft. Auburn's Carlton Davis (who has drawn
comparisons to Sherman because of his length and ball skills) and Colorado's Isaiah Oliver (a one-time Pac-12 decathlete with a 6-foot-1 frame) could be available. Louisville's Jaire Alexander (who lit up the three-cone drill at this year's combine) might be a steal at the back end of the first round after the 5-foot-11, 192-pounder played with some injuries in 2017 that might prevent him from going higher. Central Florida's Mike Hughes should be taken right in the same range.

BOTTOM LINE: The Patriots have pieces at the position, and it'd come as no surprise if their focus was elsewhere as they get ready for the NFL's legal tampering period and the official start to the new league year and free agency next week. While it was fun as all get out to entertain the idea of Sherman or Talib making their way to Foxboro, we now know that's not going to happen. Whatever move they make to add depth at corner -- whether in free agency or the draft -- won't be anywhere near as flashy.

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