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Opinion: "If I were Bob Kraft…" – TNH sports staff weighs in on what moves the Patriots should make this offseason

While the joy of winning the Super Bowl is still fresh in the minds of many Patriot fans, coaches and personnel have already begun to scout prospects at the NFL combine and weigh the impact of free agency. The Pats have around $15 million to play around with, which is about 10 percent of the overall cap. They can cut players (release from the roster with a potential penalty, depending on the contract), sign unrestricted free agents to a franchise tag (a one-year deal that is worth the average of the five highest-paid players at that position) or re-sign players. Here’s what a few of our writers would do if they were in charge:

Sam Donnelly, Staff Writer

The first move I make is simple. I do whatever it takes to resign Darrelle Revis. I mean literally anything. The guy is a flat-out ballhawk and the best corner back in the NFL. I don’t want to hear about Richard Sherman. He only plays one side of the field. Revis roams the entire field and when he’s in front of you, there’s a legitimate chance you’re going to share your personal space with him the entire game.

Revis cannot be franchise tagged and has an option in his contract this year that allows him to look around. If he chooses to stay, he would make $20 Million in one year. That’s a lot of money; and guess what? I don’t care. He is worth every penny. I don’t usually say that because the Patriots are known for getting rid of players who ask for more money, but with Revis I wouldn’t do it, especially if he says he would be open to returning the New York Jets. I don’t want to see him twice a year on the other sideline.

This is why Tom Brady restructured his contract back in January. He wants to win another Super Bowl and he knows a defense will help him do it. Revis is the best cornerback in the NFL, and not signing him would absolutely blow my mind.

Secondly, I franchise tag Stephen Gostkowski. Yes, he is a kicker. Yes, he doesn’t have an impact of more than a few plays, but the plays he is in are always pivotal. Gostowski is also coming off one of his best seasons. He made 35 out of 37 field goals this past season, including 13 for 14 from 40 yards or beyond. The tag would come out to about $3.5 million, which is more than reasonable. His salary last season was $3.4 million.

I understand the argument about McCourty for the franchise tag, but I think he will be back. He loves New England too much. He has been quoted saying as much. I let Shane Vereen walk. He wants too much money and ultimately he wasn’t a huge impact throughout the season. Forget about the Super Bowl, thanks for that by the way Shane, but I want Mr. Reliable. He can hit from anywhere on the field, and having a weapon like that changes the game.

I don’t want Revis, I need Revis. I don’t want Gostowski, I need Gostowski.

Greg Laudani, Staff Writer

Some say running backs are replaceable. But not this guy. Shane Vereen’s pass-catching ability makes him a special player for this team.

The Patriots would be wise in prioritizing Vereen, who is currently an unrestricted free agent. Last season Vereen made just over $1 million in the final year of his contract with the team.

In his fourth season with the Patriots in 2014, the sure-handed Vereen caught a career-high 52 passes for 447 yards.

The running back’s importance to the team can be summed up nicely by his performance in the Super Bowl. Vereen had a team-high 11 catches on the night while picking up 64 yards through the air. Brady targeted the running back 12 times, tied with Julian Edelman for most against Seattle. The quarerback’s trust in Vereen in the most critical of games says a lot about what he means to the Patriots.

Time after time, when the Seahawks hurried Brady, he was able to find Vereen in the flat to avoid the rush and gain critical five-yard chunks.

To keep Brady around as long as possible, New England needs to support him with ways to get the ball out quick to avoid getting hit. The last thing the Patriots need is to have nobody open for the quarterback when defensive linemen are in his face.

Vereen is the answer. The running back is often matched up in coverage against linebackers, who usually can’t catch up with him. He uses his speed and quickness to get open for Brady to deliver quick, chain-moving completions.

The Patriots should re-sign the 25-year-old Vereen while he is in his prime. Who knows how long Brady will continue playing? New England needs to keep its weapons around for Tom Terrific. Sign Vereen.

New England signed Darrelle Revis to a two-year deal last March. The corner made $12 million last season, but the Patriots are not obligated to pay the $20 million outlined in the contract for 2015. New England can either restructure the contract, take a massive cap penalty or let Revis walk as an unrestricted free agent.

The answer is simple — pay that man. He is much too valuable to let go. As long as the team has its dynamic offense led by Tom Brady, they need to maintain their ties with Revis Island to have a defense to match.

The Patriots are a different team with Revis, plain and simple. I don’t think anyone can say with a straight face that the Patriots would have won the Super Bowl without the star cornerback. Revis Island is the X-factor for this team.

Think about why the Patriots had not won a Super Bowl in ten seasons. Defense.

In each of their previous three championship seasons (’01,’03,’04), New England had defenses that tortured opposing offenses with physical play in the secondary. The likes of Ty Law, Asante Samuel and Rodney Harrison led dominating defenses that carried the torch for the Patriots in the early 2000s.

So of all the moves the Patriots can make, restructuring Revis to a long-term contract is at the top of the list.

Josh Sullivan, Sports Editor

Coach Bill, I have one piece of advice to you: Draft R.J. Harris.  I know those are the words of a biased UNH football beat reporter who watched the kid play week after week. I don’t care. Seeing number 15 in red, white and blue would be a thing of beauty.

Although it wouldn’t exactly be a hometown hero story — Harris grew up rooting for the Ravens of his home town Baltimore and the Eagles because of Mike Vick — UNH fans would love to be able to see the second best wide receiver in school history suit up in Foxboro, and his explosiveness off the ball and football IQ would fit in well with Bellichick’s system. He averaged 86.1 yards a game last season for the Wildcats and is ranked as high as No. 27 out of nearly 500 potential NFL-bound wide receivers.

Expect the wide receiver, formerly known on Twitter @KeepinitAStack83, to be available in the fifth round as has him slated for going in the sixth. Though he likely wouldn’t find his way into the receiving corps right away, it wouldn’t be out of the question to see some time on special teams.

Draft aside, Robert Kraft and company needs to resign corner Darelle Revis  This is the obvious point to make, but after seeing the impact Revis had in the playoffs on receivers such as Doug Baldwin and T.Y. Hilton, it’s obvious that the success of the rest of the secondary relies on the former Jet. With Brandon Browner on the other side of the field and the ability to bring Malcom Butler into the game when necessary, Revis not only acts as the shut down corner, but establishes depth at the position.

If the Pats don’t sign Revis, the big question is where he will end up. Buffalo, Oakland and the hated New York Jets are all listed as potential destinations for the 29-year-old Pro Bowler and with two of those teams sharing the AFC East with the Patriots, retainng the cornerback will be just as important to the improvement to their own team as it will be to slowing the progress of their rivals.

Justin Loring, Sports Editor

Seeing as most people have already said “sign Revis,” I’m going to let that one slide and go with a more controversial issue. I think the Patriots should part ways with Jerod Mayo, captain of the defense.

I’m not saying he’s over stayed his welcome or isn’t effective, but based on the production the Patriots got from Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins and Akeem Ayers from the inside linebacker position this past season, there just isn’t a place for him. He’s coming off two consecutive seasons with season-ending injuries (torn pectoral muscle in 2013 and torn patellar tendon in 2014) which will take a toll on anyone. He’s 29, which isn’t exactly over-the-hill, but he hasn’t eclipsed 100-plus tackles since 2010. The average NFL career lasts just over three seasons. Mayo will be entering his eighth in 2015.

Mayo also has the third-highest cap number on the team (behind only Brady and Revis) with $10.2 million and can save the team $4.2 million if he is cut before June 1. That number increases to $6.6 million if he’s cut after June 1, but I also think the Patriots could find a suitor for his talents. New England is no stranger to taking advantage of late-round draft picks, and any haul they can get for him would be a bonus.

Second, I think the Pats either need to draft Shaq Thompson out of Washington or trade out of the first round. They’ll be picking at the very end of the draft, No. 32, and Thompson, who is incredibly versatile, is a no-brainer at that spot.

Thompson is also a Boston Red Sox prospect, having been taken in the 18th round of the 2012 draft. He was a sprinter in high school and was a five-star recruit going into college. Thompson played running back, linebacker and safety at Washington and totaled six touchdowns, two rushing, one interception and three fumble recoveries.

Besides, who doesn’t love Shaq in Boston?

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