by: Ryan Hannable on Mon, 04/10/2017 - 10:41pm

Don't be surprised if Bill Belichick makes a deal or two before the draft. (Kelley L Cox/USA Today Sports)The NFL draft is in 16 days and by some accounts it cannot get here fast enough.

After the flood of signings, trades and news once free agency began back in March, now is the typical sort of dead period where teams are focused more on  draft plans by working out potential prospects, planning draft boards, etc. and less worried about signing free agents. This can wait until after the draft.

Well, for some teams — not the Patriots. Just look at all the moves the team has made in April leading up to the draft over the last several years.

Last season running back LeGarrette Blount was re-signed and the team released former first-round pick Dominique Easley. In 2014, Patrick Chung was brought back after a stint with the Eagles. In 2013, Julian Edelman was re-signed and the team brought in defensive tackle Tommy Kelly. Finally, in 2012 veteran linebacker Bobby Carpenter was signed.

At the time of all these deals they weren’t viewed as big ones, but now that time has passed, some have proven essential to the success of the team in the last few years.

The majority of these deals have been after initial contact was made between the Patriots and that player early on in free agency. Usually these players test the market and then by this time realize a better deal is not out there and thus return to New England. Edelman is a perfect example of this. He made a few visits, including to his hometown team in the 49ers, but ultimately decided in early April of 2013 his best option was to return to the Patriots, and clearly it paid off.

So, who could potentially fit this category this year?

Blount remains a strong candidate to return as the team still needs a power back and the 30-year-old is still available. According to multiple reports, the Patriots have an offer on the table to the running back, but it doesn’t seem like he will accept. There’s interest on both sides, it’s just a matter of making the money work. It’s no guarantee a deal happens before the draft, but given the mutual interest, it would not be a surprise to see a deal come together in the next few weeks.

Another possibility could be at the defensive end position. New England lost Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard and have only acquired Kony Ealy. It’s been thought the Patriots could fill this need via the draft, but it’s also possible they sign a veteran in the coming weeks. Jared Odrick, who they brought in for a visit before free agency opened, is still available. Also, 32-year-old Mario Williams is still on the market and is a player Bill Belichick has praised in the past.

While it isn’t a signing or a release, the Patriots still likely need to address Danny Amendola and Nate Solder’s situations, as both could see their contracts get restructured. Amendola has a cap hit of just less than $8 million next season, which needs some adjusting. Also, Solder has a cap hit around $11 million, and that too needs some adjusting. In the case of Solder, it could be an extension to space out cap hits, as his deal is up at the end of the season and at 28 years old, the Patriots likely would like him around for a few more years.

Don’t forget about Malcolm Butler, either. The cornerback could sign his tender prior to the draft and be traded to the Saints, or potentially another team. This could trigger a domino effect where the Patriots sign a player to replace him and play opposite Stephon Gilmore. Some possibilities there include Darrelle Revis, Alterraun Verner and Justin Gilbert. Revis certainly would be a huge splash, but it seems likely wherever he signs will likely take place after the draft when teams re-assess their needs.

Even though this may not seem like a time for deals to go down, the Patriots have proven over the years there are in fact no days off, so don’t be surprised if they make another deal or two before the draft at the end of the month.