Top Pats need in a nutshell: The deep ball

With free agency less than four hours away, the folks at ESPN Stats & Information boiled down the Patriots' top needs by spotlighting two trends:

* Since the Patriots’ record-setting 2007 season, the team has struggled to find wide receivers with the deep pass. Over the last five seasons, only 11.8 percent of the Patriots passes to wide receivers have been more than 20 yards downfield, the second-lowest rate in the NFL.

* Opponents frequently tested the Patriots secondary last season, as only the Jets faced more passes thrown more than 20 yards downfield. The Patriots allowed 41.7 percent of those attempts to be completed (league average: 33.9) and were one of three teams (Panthers, Raiders) to allow double-digit touchdowns.