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
Ja’Whaun Bentley #8 and Dont’a Hightower #54 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images) /

New England Patriots position of need No. 1: Linebacker

For a awhile, it seemed like the “Boogeymen” of the 2019 defense, led by Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, and Jamie Collins, had made a triumphant return. Instead, the unit ended up getting exposed over and over down the stretch of the season. Now it seems like big improvements are needed at the position, and they need to be made this offseason.

Arguably the best linebacker this season was Ja’Whaun Bentley, who led the team with 109 tackles on the season. Bentley is a free agent, and he is going to be one of the team’s top priorities this offseason. Unfortunately, his partner-in-crime Hightower probably played his last game for the Patriots.

Hightower appeared to have lost a step during his one season layoff, and he labored through most of the season. He rarely made much of an impact on games, and he was just awful against the Bills in the Wild Card round. Assuming he doesn’t retire, which appears to be a real possibility, Hightower would be a free agent this offseason, and I cannot see the Patriots spending any sort of money to bring him back.

Bringing Bentley back along Van Noy seems like the start of the work at this position. After that the best bet to address this position would be to grab a top linebacker with the team’s first round draft choice. The consensus top two linebackers available in the upcoming draft are Nakobe Dean of Georgia and Devin Lloyd of Utah, and both might be available when the Pats pick midway through the first round.

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New England’s defense needs to get younger, and drafting a linebacker in the first round seems like the perfect solution. Get a young player who can become a leader for the next generation of Patriots’ defenses, while also filling arguably your top position of need. Guys like Hightower and Collins have have great careers in New England, but the time has come for both parties to go a different route.