Former first round pick calls it quits on his career after working hard in training camp. Team…
Patriots Free Agency Update
They re-signed center Dan Koppen to a two-year contract, ending any speculation that he'd either retire or join a new team, and added kicker Chris Koepplin, a move more or less designed to create some competition at camp for Stephen Gostkowski.
Cornerback: Some would argue that improving the pass rush is a greater priority, but if the Patriots had consistently strong one-on-one coverage against elite receivers and accountability in the secondary among their safeties and nickel backs, they'd be able to get away with shoddy pressure now and then. Devin McCourty regressed horribly last season, so now the team must find an elite cover corner who can hang with the league's top receivers. There's still uncertainty as to whether or not Kyle Arrington is the real deal, so the Patriots are tinkering with aging veterans such as Will Allen in hopes of catching lightning in a bottle. Looking toward the draft would be a more reasonable option.
Defensive end: Even if having dependable cornerbacks is more important right now for New England, the team can't afford to overlook its weak pass rush either. Injuries sapped them of most of their strength this year, but the switch from 3-4 to 4-3 really didn't yield exceptional results, outside of career years from Mark Anderson and Andre Carter. The problem now is Anderson left for Buffalo and Carter, who missed the end of the year due to injury, is an unrestricted free agent, so two players who combined for 20 sacks could both be playing elsewhere next season. This puts a strong emphasis on drafting a linebacker/defensive lineman hybrid with versatility to play both with a hand on the ground or standing up in coverage.
Running back: The Patriots lost a big piece of their offensive puzzle when BenJarvus Green-Ellis left to sign with Cincinnati. Green-Ellis doesn't put up eye-popping numbers or make too many highlight-reel plays, but he's dependable; he's yet to fumble in his NFL career and is as reliable as it gets in short-yardage situations. The onus is on second-year players Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley to fill that void. Both showed some flashes last year, but it's way too early to tell whether or not they can develop into every-down backs, which is somewhat of a problem since the Patriots have a window of opportunity that will continue to close each year they don't win a Super Bowl.
MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: WR Wes Welker (tendered at $9.515 million).
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--DE Andre Carter suffered a season-ending injury toward the end of the year, but had a breakthrough season prior to that, which should earn him a sizeable pay day this offseason. The two sides have already discussed an extension.
--DE Shaun Ellis did not fit in defensively throughout most of the year, and his playing time suffered because of it. Highly unlikely he re-signs with New England.
--RB Kevin Faulk had a hard time handling the workload this year after returning from the physically unable to perform list and was ultimately phased out of the offense to the point where he was inactive for the Super Bowl. He's expected to retire, but no announcement has been made yet.
--S James Ihedigbo filled in nicely with all the injuries the Patriots suffered in the secondary, but he has limited ability and won't be back unless it's for cheap money.
--CB Nate Jones was a late-season fill-in for Phillip Adams and probably won't be back unless no one else signs him this winter and he's invited to camp in the summertime.
--DL Gerard Warren wasn't as productive this year, but he provides a veteran presence. If he doesn't retire, he could return for cheap money.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--S Bret Lockett (not tendered as RFA) is a physical specimen, but he can't stay healthy. He'll probably be at camp this summer, but it's a long shot he makes the final cut unless he's 100-percent healthy.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS
--DL Kyle Love should be back next year since he is an exclusive rights free agent, and it would only cost $540,000 to keep him at the minimum salary for third-year players.
--WR Deion Branch: UFA; $1.325M/1 yr, $250,000 SB.
--OG Dan Connolly: UFA; $9.75M/3 yrs, $3.25M SB.
--QB Brian Hoyer: RFA; tendered at $1.927M with second-round pick as compensation); $1.972M/1 yr.
--C Dan Koppen: UFA; $6M/2 yrs, terms unknown.
--LB Niko Koutouvides: Potential UFA; $825,000 1 yr.
--WR Matthew Slater: UFA; $5.4M/3 yrs, $2M SB.
--LB Tracy White: UFA; $990,000/1 yr, $300,000 guaranteed.
--CB Will Allen: UFA Dolphins; $1.025M/1 yr, $25,000 SB.
--LB Bobby Carpenter: UFA Lions; $775,000/1 yr, $50,000 SB.
--CB Marquice Cole: Not tendered as RFA by Jets; $640,000/1 yr, $25,000 SB.
--DE Jonathan Fanene: UFA Bengals; $12M/3 yrs, $3.85M guaranteed.
--TE Daniel Fells: UFA Broncos; $5.25M/3 yrs, $2M guaranteed.
--FB Tony Fiammetta: Not tendered as RFA by Cowboys; $615,000/1 yr.
--OG Robert Gallery: FA Seahawks; $1.8M/1 yr, $400,000 SB.
--WR Anthony Gonzalez: UFA Colts; $700,000/1 yr.
--SS Steve Gregory: UFA Chargers; $8.5M/3 yrs, $3.35M guaranteed.
--DT Marcus Harrison: FA; terms unknown.
--FB Spencer Larsen: UFA Broncos; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--WR Brandon Lloyd: UFA Rams; $12M/3 yrs, $3M SB.
--DL Trevor Scott: UFA Raiders; $1.150M/1 yr, $250,000 SB.
--WR Donte Stallworth: UFA Redskins; $925,000/1 yr, $25,000 SB.
-- K Chris Koepplin: FA Patriots; terms unknown
--DE Mark Anderson: UFA Bills; $19.5M/4 yrs, $8M guaranteed.
--RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis: UFA Bengals; $9M/3 yrs.
--LB Gary Guyton: UFA Dolphins; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--CB Antwaun Molden: UFA Giants; $700,000/1 yr.
--OG Rich Ohrnberger (released/failed physical).
--FB Lousaka Polite (released).
--DE Mike Wright (released/failed physical).
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