Fun read from Kevin Duffy weighing who will make the biggest impact this season of the newly-added free agents. For me, I think Chris Hogan and Martellus Bennett have the best chance to play the most of the group.
Chris Long should slide into the third defensive end role and should get plenty of action as well. An injury to Jabaal Sheard or Rob Ninkovich would elevate him into starter’s status and I’m betting he’d be ready for that challenge.
Shea McClellin should be the base middle linebacker, which is a one-to-two down role, but as we’ve seen Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins both miss significant time last year, he’s also on a paper-thin verge of an almost every-down role.
Finally Jonathan Cooper will be fascinating to watch this year. He might be the most talented guard on the roster, but that’s no guarantee he beats out the promising second-year guards. Still, if he is able to finally put it all together he could have a huge impact in transforming the Pats’ offensive line from the disaster we saw at various times last year. Pair him with Shaq Mason and the athleticism at the guard position will be through the roof.
I expect Hogan to step into the role Brandon LaFell had in 2014, playing nearly every snap as the primary X/outside receiver. Hard to predict if he’ll earn Brady’s trust the way LaFell did in 2014, if not he’ll look like LaFell in 2015. But he checks every box the Pats look for and if he can get the nickname 7-11 for always being open with shitty QBs, we can only imagine how much Brady should like him.
Bennett should pair with Gronk to form the most unstoppable tight end duo in the league. Again, there’s an element of unknown with any free agent, but on paper that duo can and should play almost every snap. The Pats have never had two tight ends quite like this, with the equal ability to block or catch passes.
If everything clicks there might not be a bigger free agent impact signing in the NFL.