Patriots Free Agents Ready To Test Market

Wes Welker has been tagged

The Patriots are headed to Free Agency with just one of their players locked up, and another tendered to deter teams from signing him.

New England has 20 free agents, including restricted (RFA) and exclusive rights (EFRA) free agents.
 
OFFENSE

QB Brian Hoyer (RFA)  -- Hoyer is a valuable backup who knows the Patriots system and was a productive player in college.  The team has Ryan Mallett waiting in the wings in case another team signs Hoyer.
 
OL Dan Connolly – His ability to play multiple positions is something that the team values.  He took over right guard for Stephen Neal when Neal retired, then the Patriots signed Brian Waters. Connolly moved to center when Koppen was injured.

OC Dan Koppen – Koppen finished 2011 on IR after breaking his leg in the season opener. In his tenth season, Koppen may be looking for a final payday, one he won't get from New England.
 
RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis – Green-Ellis has been productive for the Patriots, especially considering he singed as an undrafted rookie free agent.  The best part of Green-Ellis' game is his uncanny ability to get a yard when it looks like there is no hole. He has never lost a fumble as a Pro. The team has Stevan Ridley if the Lawfirm leaves, but it will BJGE's goalline skills will be missed.

RB Kevin Faulk –  A few weks ago, Faulk conducted an interviwe with Shalise Manza-Young that appeared to be an exit interview.  Though he didn't say he was all done, Faulk admitted he doesn't have the same skills that made him irreplaceable.  The team has likely moved on.
 
WR Wes Welker –  Welker was given the Franchise tag, which carries a $9.5 million cap charge. Expect the Patriots to work out a longer term deal to keep him around at a more reasonable cost.

WR Deion Branch – Branch joined the Patriots after a disappointing stint in Seattle.  He appeared to be on the same page with Brady early in his return in 2010. In the two years he's been back, Branch has averaged 50 catches for 704 yards.  He could return at the right price.

WR Matt Slater –  Slater's special teams play has solidified the team's interest in him.  Though experiments at receiver and safety haven't exactly been noteworthy, Salter is the kind of guy who makes the team better by leading by example.  He could return if he's not going for the biggest payday.
 
DEFENSE
 
DE Shaun Ellis – Ellis' season was disappointing considering the impact expected from the former first round pick of the Jets. With new, younger blood on the line, it would be a mild surprise if Ellis returned.

DE Mark Anderson – Sources have indicated to Patriots Insider that Anderson is a player the team would like back. He will have a chance to test the market.  Based on his 10 sack season, he could find a team looking to pay him for his production. But as a situational pass rusher, Anderson is best suited as a part time role player.  Expect the Patriots to remain interested if his price doesn't rise too high.

DE Andre Carter –  Carter has expressed interest in returning despite a serious injury (quad) that ended his season early. Other teams looking for a short term solution as a pass rusher, could play a role in that outcome. Carter was the Patriots most dominant defender, getting elected to the Pro Bowl despite already being on injured reserve.

DL Gerard Warren – A role player up front, Warren has quietly lent his physical presence to the Patriots defensive front. Also a former first round pick (Browns),  the Patriots let him test the market last season. Now in his 11th season, Warren's motivation will be key. Can he still produce and at what price? A veteran minimum contract appears one of the few ways that Warren will return to Foxboro.

DL Kyle Love (ERFA) – Love was tendered with a qualifying offer on Tues. There was little doubt the Patriots wanted him back after he managed to force his way into the lineup ahead of players like Warren, Ron Brace and Albert Haynesworth.
 
LB Niko Koutouvides –  Remember Marty Moore and Matt Chatham? Koutouvides is sort of similar to those two role players who managed to stick around year after year.  New England was interested in Koutouvides long before he joined the team in 2011, and his performance last year may not have been impressive, but was what should have been expected from him. A solid role player, he could re-sign.

LB Gary Guyton – Similar to Corey Mays and Pierre Woods, Guyton has played a role for the Patriots defense since signing a rookie free gent contract. It appears, after the team opted to replace him in the starting lineup, that Guyton's time in New England may be coming to a close. Never say never, but it would be surprising to see him back.

LB Tracy White –  Another solid veteran backer who contributed as a role player on defense.  Unfortunately his coverage skills are not what the team needs at the position, but he's a solid contributor on special teams. He could be back under the right circumstances.
 
DB Nate Jones –  Jones was more of a fill-in for the Patriots as a healthy body on a defensive secondary that was ranked dead last until the final few weeks of the regular season.  Don't expect the team to try to re-sign him unless there's a run on free agent options.

DB Bret Lockett (RFA) –  Lockett continued his trend of finishing the season on I/R in 2011, for the third consecutive year. The former UCLA Bruin has play-making ability, but if he's not healthy, he won't get the chance to show it. Expect the team to look for other options at that position.

DB Antwaun Molden – From castoff to starting corner and then back to role player, Molden has experienced highs and lows in New England. At just 27 years, Molden could return to continue his multipurpose duties in the secondary.  A second season in the Patriots system would do wonders to revive his career. He will certainly be allowed to test the market, and may find a hole elsewhere.

DB James Ihedigbo –  Though he was exposed in pas scoverage, Ihedigbo played well at times holding together the Patriots safety position while Patrick Chung recovered from injury.  A former backup for the Jets, who elected  to let him test free agency last year, Ihedigbo became a starter for New England. He will test free agency, but could return at the right price. Expect the Patriots to look for a possible upgrade, and if they find one at the right, he won't be back.
 

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