Insider high on Pats' improvement

If you were putting together a list of the five NFL teams in best position to improve this offseason, who would they be?

That was a question ESPN.com NFL Insider Mike Sando answered in his latest piece and the Patriots landed in the No. 5 spot.

While acknowledging that it's a challenge to improve from a 12-4 regular-season record, Sando explained his choice this way:

"They will be better even if their record doesn't show it. Winning 12 games last season was a remarkable achievement for a team that subtracted both starting tight ends, slot receiver Wes Welker, tackle Sebastian Vollmer, both defensive tackles, inside linebacker Jerod Mayo and others. To reach 12 victories, the Patriots had to go 6-1 in games decided by three or fewer points. They shouldn't need so many narrow escapes as they get healthier in 2014. New England also will have time to reset its offensive weaponry after Aaron Hernandez's sudden demise blindsided them at the last minute in 2013."

In filling out his list with the 49ers, Browns, Rams and Falcons, Sando looks at everything from players returning from injury to volume of draft picks, salary cap space, and impending free agents.

It's a good read that reflects the broader national viewpoint on the team, which remains generally positive.