Duke guard Laken Tomlinson was a four-year starter and a Senior Bowl invitee. (NFL.com)
It could be defensive tackle. It could be cornerback. It could be offensive line.
The New England Patriots could call upon several positions at No. 32 overall in the 2015 NFL draft. And along the five-man front, there are several variables to account for, inside and out.
With left guard Dan Connolly still a free agent, and with right guard Ryan Wendell and left tackle Nate Solder entering the final years of their deals, New England’s line stands in a pliable stage heading into April 30.
One of the closest things to a long-term certainty there is at center, where Bryan Stork, a fourth-round pick last May, earned a total of 13 starts as a rookie. But where fellow fourth-rounder Cameron Fleming and swing man Marcus Cannon fit next season is unclear. And the same can be said of where New England’s war room will fit in this year’s prospects.
Head coach Bill Belichick, director of player personnel Nick Caserio and the Patriots may be able to put all the spots in place by drafting one, however.
UConn’s Byron Jones could be on the fringe of the first round. (ESPN.com)
It’s the number of cornerbacks on the New England Patriots’ roster as the 2015 NFL draft draws near. And it’s a number that was subtracted from before it was added to during the first wave of free agency.
With both starters from last season’s team now on other teams, New England went out and signed three veterans into the mix in Chimdi Chekwa, Bradley Fletcher and Robert McClain in March. But there may soon be another to account for this month.
Bill Belichick, Nick Caserio and the Patriots’ war room may see April 30 as an opportunity not to replace Darrelle Revis or Brandon Browner, but to reshape the corner position itself. And with the rights to pick No. 32 overall at the end of the first round, several names could be in consideration should the organization opt to stay put.
Jerod Mayo has played in 12 games for the Patriots since 2013. (NFL Game Rewind)
The New England Patriots brought in linebacker Rolando McClain for a free-agent visit this week. And while the 25-year-old has since returned to the Dallas Cowboys on a one-year deal reportedly worth up to $4 million, New England’s off-the-ball interest could be telling at this stage in the game.
According to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald, the Patriots offered McClain a one-year, $4 million contract. But the 12-game starter in 2014 left without signing, and ultimately agreed with the Cowboys on a comparably structured deal Wednesday.
McClain now is back in a situation he enjoyed a comeback year in, after spending the 2013 season out of football. That familiarity could have very well factored into his decision, as he should remain in the mix as Dallas’ middle linebacker, allowing the injured starter he replaced, Sean Lee, to slide over to the weak side.
In New England, McClain’s spot on the depth chart would have been far less certain in the long-term. Yet, on the other side, the Patriots’ off-line linebacker spots are also uncertain at this time.
Oklahoma’s Jordan Phillips could be in consideration if waiting at No. 32 overall. (NFL.com)
In under a month, Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio will be facing the board, Berj Najarian will be on the phone, and the New England Patriots will be on the clock at pick 32 overall.
The end of the 2015 NFL draft’s first round won’t be unlike recent years for the Patriots’ war room. The same faces will be taking part within it. But there will be new prospects taking part on the outside. And with defensive tackle a position in question now that Vince Wilfork is a Houston Texan, perhaps one available will get a call from One Patriot Place on April 30.
Much can change between now and then, as can perception of how New England will maneuver through its nine total picks. Though for now, here are five interior defensive linemen to consider should the Patriots stand pat with the first one, with film glimpses courtesy of DraftBreakdown.com.
Bill Belichick has made his way through pro days this draft season. (Clemson Football)
Since the NFL Scouting Combine concluded in late February and free agency came to a head in early March, head coach Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots’ constituents have made their way through the scouting trail en route to the 2015 NFL draft.
And as the organization looks to dot its I’s and cross its T’s on this year’s pool of prospects leading up to April 30, that will continue.
Though for now, a look at an updated – but not all-encompassing – list of just whom the Patriots have reportedly been in contact with, between formal interviews, private workouts, pro-day and group workouts, pre-draft visits and or meetings.
The average age of the Patriots’ current roster is 25 years old. (NFL Game Rewind)
It’s hard to say when it started, but it’s clearer now. A youth movement is underway inside Gillette Stadium.
This March saw the 33-year-old Vince Wilfork, the 30-year-old Brandon Browner and the 29-year-old Darrelle Revis leave the defensive side of the ball. And it saw the 32-year-old Dan Connolly remain unsigned along the offensive side, after the team’s third-longest tenured player, the 33-year-old Logan Mankins, was traded last August.
Yet it isn’t so much about whom will replace them. It’s how.
There have been 13 free-agent additions in preparation the 2015 NFL season. Only one, a reserve-future signing and ex-Tennessee Titans defensive lineman named Antonio Johnson, has already hit his third decade. There have been eight free agents retained. And only two, kicker Stephen Gostkowski and defensive tackle Alan Branch, have reached that same point.
In result, the average age of a New England Patriots player – at the moment – is 25 years old.
Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon were taken consecutively in 2013. (NFL Game Rewind)
There may no longer be one dominant pipeline for Bill Belichick. But there are still several college streams running down into the Foxborough ravine.
The New England Patriots have collected players from an assortment of schools over the years, whether it be first-year pros or 10-year veterans, whether it be via free agency, trade, or the draft. And admittedly, the strength of some connections in the collection aren’t as strong as they once were.
Some of Belichick’s ties have dispersed in different directions, with the likes of Greg Schiano, Urban Meyer and Randy Edsall no longer at the forefront of the programs the Patriots head coach once picked from. Yet other waters have appeared over the years.
And with the Patriots’ pool currently standing 75 deep, here is a look through the most prominent products featured in its depths.
Dan Connolly has started 71 regular-season games for the Patriots. (NFL Game Rewind)
The market for a 32-year-old interior offensive lineman is often a quiet one. But for Dan Connolly, it quietly appears to be a strong one.
The longtime New England Patriot is one of the organization’s final three unrestricted free agents remaining, one week after the new league year began. It isn’t due to a lack of interest around the NFL, however.
According to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport, Connolly has garnered the attention of the Seattle Seahawks, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Chicago Bears and the Miami Dolphins as of Tuesday. And he’s also garnered the attention of the team he’s been on for eight seasons.
“Patriots want him back,” said Rapoport.
Kyle Arrington sits atop a now-cloudy Patriots cornerback position. (NFL Game Rewind)
It was Herman Edwards who once said “a goal without a plan is a wish.”
There is reason to believe a goal is in mind for the New England Patriots after one week of moves. With Darrelle Revis a New York Jet, Brandon Browner a New Orleans Saint, Shane Vereen a New York Giant, and Vince Wilfork a Houston Texan, there’s also reason to believe there is a plan.
But exactly what that plan entails hasn’t been shared by head coach Bill Belichick. And when it is, it won’t be with words.
Time will tell how the organization will address the key positional needs on the roster. It could be told in the coming weeks, in a trade, in the draft, or in the season opener next September. But right now, however it may ultimately be addressed, New England is heading into the second week of the free-agent process with newfound vacancies.
Stevie Johnson visited the Patriots to start free agency’s second week. (NFL Game Rewind)
The first wave of NFL free agency crashed down on the New England Patriots, seeing the likes of Shane Vereen, Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner head into shore with the New York Giants, New York Jets and New Orleans Saints, respectively.
But now, a week out, it’s time to revisit where head coach Bill Belichick, director of player personnel Nick Caserio and the Patriots stand.
It’s time to see what’s been retained, added and subtracted from the roster. And also, what’s remaining heading into the second week.