New England Patriots: Top 4 positions of need heading into the offseason

Dont'a Hightower #54 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)
Dont'a Hightower #54 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images) /
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New England Patriots
Matt Judon #9 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

New England Patriots position of need No. 3: Defensive end/Edge Rusher

This grouping was one of the top needs last offseason, and it seemed like they were in pretty good shape coming into the season. Matthew Judon was the big money signing of free agency last offseason, and with young guys like Chase Winovich and Josh Uche seeming set for potential breakout seasons, the Patriots were expected to be able to get some pressure on opposing quarterbacks quite often.

And while the unit obviously showed some improvement this season, they still need some help. Judon had a standout season, posting 12.5 sacks, but the drop off in production behind him is pretty significant. Kyle Van Noy was the only other player to have more than three sacks on the season, and considering he wasn’t even playing on the edge the majority of the time, that’s not exactly a good sign.

The main reason for the struggles from this group was really due to the lack of development from Winovich and Uche. Both guys struggled to stay on the field for long stretches of the season, and even when they were on the field they weren’t exactly productive. The Patriots took a gamble on them to produce and it didn’t pay off, so now it’s time to find a solution.

The free agent market is going to be filled with some solid edge rushers to complement Judon, but a lot of the team’s free agent strategy is going to depend on what they do with their current free agents. If they have some cap space leftover after re-signing their own guys, it would make sense to try to sign a veteran pass rusher such as Melvin Ingram or Justin Houston.

Judon had a really solid season, but once opposing offenses realized they didn’t have to worry as much about his teammates, he struggled to generate much pressure on his own. It’s time to give him a partner-in-crime lining up alongside him to help him generate pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The pass rush had a solid season, but it’s clear they can become better for next season as well.