The New England Patriots have officially cemented their status as the greatest NFL dynasty of the past 20 years, but don't think the Brady/Belichick connection are satisfied with the franchise's fourth Super Bowl championship in the past fourteen seasons.
New England's #1 priority is to restructure and extend shutdown cornerback Darrelle Revis' contract with the team (and avoid a $25 million cap hit in 2015). However, the Pats front office is also hard at work putting together a priority list for out-of-house free agents this offseason, with wide receiver a particular point of focus heading into the new league year. Who are the best bets to land on the Patriots' list? Here are New England's top 3 free agency targets for this coming spring...
RB Reggie Bush
The New England Patriots have a younger, cheaper dual-threat halfback already in-house if they can retain Shane Vereen, but Bush makes perfect sense if the Pats can't come to terms with Vereen on a return to New England.
Bush was limited to just 11 games for the Detroit Lions in 2014 due to injury and is coming up on his age-30 season, but even 80% of his trademark explosiveness would be a massive weapon for the Patriots' revolving door backfield -- a corps by committee that help keep Bush healthy by limiting his carries and targets. The USC product is also a more consistent between-the-tackles threat than Vereen, showcasing deceptive toughness and extraordinary balance after first contact, and fits into Bill Belichick's going theme of maximizing value out of veteran running backs.
WR Harry Douglas
The New England Patriots are once again shopping for receiving help, with there being no guarantee that Danny Amendola will accept a pay cut to remain in the #3 slot behind Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell.
If Amendola forces New England's hand and the Pats cut him, former Atlanta Falcons wideout Harry Douglas instantly vaults to the top of the Patriots' wishlist. Douglas would arguably provide an upgrade over Amendola in the slot at a cheaper price tag, having amassed 135 catches for 1,623 yards and four touchdowns over the past two seasons. The former Atlanta Falcons mainstay will likely command less that $4 million per season on the open market, while Amendola comes with a $5.7 million cap hit if New England retains him heading into the 2015 campaign.
DE Mathias Kiwanuka
Kiwanuka is hitting the free market after playing his first nine seasons with the New York Giants, and a move to New England makes plenty of sense if the two sides can come to an accord. The 31-year-old is primarily a pass-rush threat at this juncture in his career, but he's also proven to be more than adequate when it comes to dropping back in coverage.
His versatility and veteran presence are likely to pique the Patriots' interest come the middle of March, and his price tag should be reasonable enough to ensure that New England has plenty of cash left over for secondary help should the Revis talks not bear fruit.
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