Despite the fact that March was supposed to be a quiet month for the Patriots due to the uncertain NFL labor situation, just two days into the month, we’ve already had two fairly big announcments. The first was that the Patriots have signed ex-Buffalo Bill defensive lineman, Marcus Stroud to a two-year deal. Stroud was cut by the Bills after a lackluster season that didn’t justify the $4.5M that he was due to receive in 2011. This signing by the Pats likely signals a move away from free-agent Gerard Warren. With Vince Wilfork at nose tackle, Ty Warren set to return, and now Stroud in the fold, its’ hard to imagine them bringing back the veteran Warren, especially with New England being likely to invest a 1st or 2nd round pick on a DE.
Also of note is that guard Stephen Neal has decided to retire after an illustrious 10 year career. The loss of Neal, coupled with the tumultuous Logan Mankins situation, makes the need to draft an interior lineman all the more pressing for New England. Dan Connolly should be able to step in and fill the void left by Neal, but it’s clear that the Patriots need to replenish the guard position. I would expect Neal’s retirement to cause a big uptick in the number of mock drafts that have the Patriots selecting Mike Pouncey with one of their two first round picks.