If you walk into the office of any NFL general manager, you will find (sometimes behind closed cabinet doors, or on a video board) a series of three depth charts: a current snapshot, one for the following season, and one for the season after that. They are coded both by player grade and contract status.
They're handy to have so if a player comes available, you know whether they are: a) an upgrade over what you currently have and, b) if you need to plug a spot with a player coming up for free agency (need to maintain leverage with alternatives).
Obviously, we're not Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio, and we'll never have access to their internal grades and data. But you still need to have your eye on the ball. Taking that depth-chart overview allows you to see a little bit more clearly where things stand with the Patriots' roster.
After breaking down the Patriots' offense and defense (coming), and after the first day of free agency, it's a good time to take a look at where things stand.
What you'll find are offensive and defensive depth charts with player grades (rough scale is here) and also color-coded by contract status. Then we have a chart that ranks the 14 "needs" at this point for the Patriots, and what part of the offseason they might use to fill that spot (veteran free agency, budget free agency, draft). We'll be updating this as the offseason moves along: