With the draft coming up, the Patriots have been
busy tying up some loose ends on their roster.
They re-signed center Dan Koppen to a
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
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
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
MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: WR Wes Welker
(tendered at $9.515
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS
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.
Branch: UFA; $1.325M/1 yr, $250,000 SB.
Connolly: UFA; $9.75M/3 yrs, $3.25M SB.
Hoyer: RFA; tendered at $1.927M with
second-round pick as compensation); $1.972M/1 yr.
Koppen: UFA; $6M/2 yrs, terms unknown.
Koutouvides: Potential UFA; $825,000 1
--WR Matthew Slater: UFA; $5.4M/3 yrs, $2M SB.
White: UFA; $990,000/1 yr, $300,000
Allen: UFA Dolphins; $1.025M/1 yr,
Carpenter: UFA Lions; $775,000/1 yr,
Cole: Not tendered as RFA by Jets;
$640,000/1 yr, $25,000 SB.
Fanene: UFA Bengals; $12M/3 yrs,
Fells: UFA Broncos; $5.25M/3 yrs, $2M
Fiammetta: Not tendered as RFA by
Cowboys; $615,000/1 yr.
--OG Robert Gallery: FA Seahawks; $1.8M/1 yr,
Gonzalez: UFA Colts; $700,000/1 yr.
Gregory: UFA Chargers; $8.5M/3 yrs,
Harrison: FA; terms unknown.
Larsen: UFA Broncos; 2 yrs, terms
Lloyd: UFA Rams; $12M/3 yrs, $3M SB.
Scott: UFA Raiders; $1.150M/1 yr,
Stallworth: UFA Redskins; $925,000/1
yr, $25,000 SB.
-- K Chris Koepplin: FA Patriots; terms
--DE Mark Anderson: UFA Bills; $19.5M/4 yrs, $8M
--RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis: UFA Bengals; $9M/3 yrs.
Guyton: UFA Dolphins; 1 yr, terms
Molden: UFA Giants; $700,000/1 yr.
Ohrnberger (released/failed physical).
Wright (released/failed physical).