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As free agency dust settles, where are Patriots roster needs now?

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Mar. 24—This past season the New England Patriots weren’t themselves. The team was riddled with holes, deficient in talent all across the roster, and the result was a middling 7-9 season and the team’s first year without a playoff berth since 2008.

Obviously that didn’t sit well with Bill Belichick, who cannonballed into the free agent market last week and completely transformed the team’s roster.

Now that the dust is starting to settle, how does the team look now? More important, where are there still holes to fill with the rest of free agency and the draft still to come?

Quarterback

Signed: Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham, Jake Dolegala

Free Agents: Brian Hoyer

The Patriots quarterback situation remains the same as last year, which is to say not good enough. Cam Newton should benefit from a full year in the system and from having better pass catching options around him, but he isn’t the long term solution. Finding a quarterback in the draft, ideally someone who could make an impact on a cheap rookie contract, should be the Patriots’ top priority.

Running Back

Signed: Damien Harris, Sony Michel, Brandon Bolden, JJ Taylor, Danny Vitale (FB), Jakob Johnson (FB)

Free Agents: James White, Rex Burkhead

The Patriots have had ample depth at running back for the last few years, but if James White and Rex Burkhead wind up signing elsewhere that won’t be the case any longer. Shoring up the running back position, particularly the third-down passing role that White and Burkhead have thrived in, will be essential going forward.

Wide Receiver

Signed: Julian Edelman, Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, Jakobi Meyers, N’Keal Harry, Gunner Olszewski, Matthew Slater, Devin Smith, Kristian Wilkerson, Isaiah Zuber

Free Agents: Damiere Byrd

Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne were a great start, but wide receiver remains a position of concern that the Patriots would do well to continue shoring up through the draft. While Jakobi Meyers looks like a solid second or third option, Julian Edelman’s health remains a question and N’Keal Harry is on the trade market.

Tight End

Signed: Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, Devin Asiasi, Dalton Keene, Matt LaCosse

What a difference a day makes! In the blink of an eye the Patriots turned the league’s worst tight end situation into one of the best, signing the top two tight ends on the market. Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith’s arrival also gives the Patriots the luxury of developing second-year pros Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene, who can hopefully still make strides in Year 2 after unproductive rookie years.

Offensive Line

Signed: Isaiah Wynn, Mike Onwenu, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Trent Brown, Ted Karras, Justin Herron, Korey Cunningham, Yodny Cajuste, Najee Toran, Marcus Martin, Ross Reynolds

Free Agents: Jermaine Eluemunor, James Ferentz

Even after losing starting left guard Joe Thuney to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Patriots are in great shape on the offensive line. Mike Onwenu, who was outstanding in multiple roles as a rookie, should slot in as the starting left guard alongside left tackle Isaiah Wynn, returning center David Andrews, right guard Shaq Mason and right tackle Trent Brown, back in New England after a two-year stint with the Raiders. The Patriots also have solid depth in center Ted Karras, back after a one-year stint in Miami, and second-year tackle Justin Herron.

Defensive Line

Signed: Chase Winovich, Deatrich Wise, Byron Cowart, Davon Godchaux, Henry Anderson, Montravius Adams, Akeem Spence, Carl Davis, Nick Thurman, Bill Murray, Tashawn Bower, Rashod Berry, Michael Barnett

Free Agents: Lawrence Guy, John Simon

The Patriots struggled to stop the run last fall and have made some progress in addressing that, adding Davon Godchaux, Henry Anderson and Montravius Adams while losing Adam Butler. Even so, finding some big run stoppers in the draft should be a top priority, as should re-signing Lawrence Guy.

Linebackers

Signed: Dont’a Hightower, Matt Judon, Kyle Van Noy, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Josh Uche, Anfernee Jennings, Raekwon McMillan, Terez Hall, Brandon King

Free Agents: Shilique Calhoun

Last year the Patriots’ linebacker situation was so dicey that Belichick almost exclusively used five defensive back sets for the entire season, but the good news is that by signing Matt Judon, bringing back Kyle Van Noy and getting Dont’a Hightower back from a COVID opt out, the unit is already much improved. But the linebackers still need a major infusion of youth, particular on the inside, so don’t be surprised if the Patriots draft someone in the first round if no top quarterbacks are available.

Defensive Backs

Signed: Stephon Gilmore, Devin McCourty, Jonathan Jones, Adrian Phillips, Jalen Mills, Kyle Dugger, Joejuan Williams, Justin Bethel, Cody Davis, Myles Bryant, Michael Jackson, D’Angelo Ross, Dee Virgin

Free Agents: J.C. Jackson (restricted), Jason McCourty

By adding Jalen Mills the Patriots ensured their secondary will remain one of the deepest and most talented in the NFL, but there are still issues to address. J.C. Jackson’s status as a restricted free agent remains a wild card, as does Stephon Gilmore’s contract situation, and Devin McCourty will be 34 by the time the new season starts.

Specialists

Signed: K Nick Folk, K Roberto Aguayo, P Jake Bailey, LS Joe Cardona

Nick Folk was quietly one of the most consistent and important players for the Patriots last fall. Assuming he beats out Roberto Aguayo in the kicker competition, his return should give Patriots fans comfort.

Mac Cerullo can be reached at mcerullo@newburyportnews.com. Follow Mac on Twitter at @MacCerullo.

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