Patriots want stability on defensive side
The good news defensively for the New England Patriots is they don't
have any major free agents that could potentially cost them a lot of
money -- no one, at least, at the level of wide receiver Wes Welker,
who figures to command a big pay raise, whether it's via the franchise
tag or a long-term deal.
The players hitting the
market are important to the team, but not necessarily deal-breakers.
All told, there are nine defensive free agents.
most important players the Patriots need to worry about keeping are
linebacker Rob Ninkovich, a key component to this year's front seven,
and cornerback Kyle Arrington, who tied for the team lead in
interceptions. The good news on Arrington is he's a restricted free
agent, and it's unlikely any other team would offer a draft pick -- or
whatever the cost would be -- in order to obtain him. The Patriots
should be able to retain him for minimal dollars.
Ninkovich is an unrestricted free agent and could get some offers, but
nothing the Patriots can't match if they want him back, which, by all
accounts, they will do. Defensive end Shaun Ellis played a minimal role
and probably won't be back unless it's a one-year deal for small money.
Ninkovich 11/13/2011 (Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE).
Defensive end Andre Carter, who had a breakout year with a career-high
10 sacks before suffering a season-ending injury, could field a few
offers on the open market, but at 32, it's unlikely he'll get a
long-term deal. The Patriots could certainly afford him at two, maybe
three years for fair market value.
Linebacker Gary Guyton is a restricted free agent. His role diminished in 2011, but
he'll likely be back in camp this year despite the fact his long-term
future in New England is up in the air.
Arrington is a high priority given the team's problems in the
secondary. There are some interesting veteran names available on the
market, such as Ronde Barber and Will Allen, who are both unrestricted
free agents. Strong safety Deon Grant of the Giants is also
available and would be a tremendous boost to the secondary, but it's
unlikely he'll leave New York.
early-round draft picks, the Patriots could look to this year's rookie
crop for some help in the secondary. Their track record lately hasn't
been great, but that likely won't dissuade them from targeting defense;
there's talk that they could look at hybrid defensive
linemen/linebackers, such as linebacker Vinny Curry of Marshall,
Connecticut defensive tackle Kendall Reyes or defensive tackle Fletcher Cox of Mississippi State even though this year's class of linebackers
and linemen isn't considered to be strong.
Bowl XLVI Coverage