(Thirteenth in a position-by-position look at the Patriots leading into the draft)
Personnel: Brandon Meriweather, James Sanders, Antwain Spann, Ray Ventrone, Shawn Springs, Tank Williams
Short-term need: Moderate to high. Meriweather and Sanders, who started as a tandem throughout the second half of last season, return in 2009. The Patriots entered last season with Rodney Harrison, Meriweather and Sanders at the top of the depth chart, so they aren't as deep at this point. Springs would probably be the third option, but he's more of a cornerback.
Long-term need: Moderate to high. Sanders and Meriweather are signed through 2011. Springs is also signed for three seasons.
Quick hit: Without Rodney Harrison on the roster (he could potentially return if he's healthy and wants to play again), the Patriots would presumably be seeking the type of tough, physical safety who could move down into the box at times and work against opposing tight ends and support against the run. When Meriweather drops down, it's more as a cornerback-type presence. Sanders is more of a center-field type.
Prospects that could be on the radar in the draft or rookie free agency: David Bruton (Notre Dame), Patrick Chung (Oregon), Chris Clemons (Clemson), Kevin Ellison (Southern Cal), Michael Hamlin (Clemson), William Moore (Missouri), Glover Quin (New Mexico), Chip Vaughn (Wake Forest)
* Pro Football Weekly Draft Guide used as reference