The following is a list of Patriots players who were scheduled to become free agents this March. One has already decided to re-sign with the team. Whether the others will return to Foxborough is partly about money and partly about possible their opportunities elsewhere.
Troy Brown, WR/KR/DB - The versatile Brown returned to New England at the insistence of his family after flirting briefly with New Orleans during free agency last year. Brown was third overall in receiving yards (466), and managed the teams longest pass reception of the season - a 71-yard strike against the Panthers at Carolina in week 2. He returned punts and saw action for the second season in a row at defensive back. If he doesn't retire, he could be back for another season.
Andre Davis, WR - 'Dre has been with the Patriots since they traded a draft pick to Cleveland for him prior to the start of the 2005 season. His ability to stretch the field and his size are two characteristics New England enjoyed while the former track star was on the field. The issue for Davis is what other teams may be willing to offer. He did choose to return to New England after the Patriots released him when they had to deal with depth issues due to a rash of injuries in 2005.
Tim Dwight, WR/KR - Another speedster, Dwight gave New England a constant threat to break a big one in their special teams game. He led all New England players with a kick return average of 25.0 per return (5 ret min), and punt returns 8.5 avg. per return (5 ret min). Dwight filled in for the injured starting receivers during the season coming up with three touchdowns and 332 yards (17.5 avg.), second in average to only Andre Davis' 21.1 per reception average.
David Givens,WR - The talented receiver is one player the Patriots would love to have return as a target for Tom Brady. Givens' clutch third-down receptions were key to late game drives. He's the number two rated receiver on the free agent market behind Reggie Wayne, and is sure to have a number of suitors.
Christian Fauria, TE - A potential target for Tom Brady late in the season when Dan Graham went down with an injury. Fauria disappeared once Ben Watson and Graham were able to get into the rotation. A versatile player, Fauria is willing to do what it takes to make the team. He has become a role player for New England, albeit one with talent good enough to be a number two option. 2005 marked a career-low in receptions (8) and yards (57) for the 6-4, 250-pound veteran.
Heath Evans, FB - Signed as a street free agent November 1st, Evans first game was against his former team, the Miami Dolphins. He turned in an 18 carry 84-yard performance in a career-best performance in place of the injured Corey Dillon. Evans showed nice burst in his second game, a 16-carry 7yard win over New Orleans the following week. New England carried only three running backs on the roster headed into 2005, which came back to haunt them during the season. Evan may be the guy to increase that number to four if he can beat out someone else on special teams.
Mike Cloud, RB - Released during the season, he is not technically a Patriots free agent. Because of his multiple stints with the Patriots and that he has yet to sign with another team, we'll include him. Cloud joined the Patriots for the second time in his career (2003), on November 4, 2005. He played sparingly behind a banged-up line and was unable to distinguish himself from other backs on the roster. His return is highly unlikely.
Doug Flutie, QB - One of the more memorable moments in Flutie highlight history came in a meaningless game against the Miami Dolphins during the 2005 regular season finale. Flutie lined up in the backfield on an extra point try, caught the ball, and dropkicked it through the uprights. It was the first time in nearly 60 years since someone else accomplished that feat. As for his quarterbacking skills, with seventh-round pick Matt Cassel showing why the Patriots drafted him by leading a near comeback bid to win that Miami game; Flutie may be retiring after his memorable kick. Should he return, it's most likely as a third-string option.
Tom Ashworth, OT - Ashworth had another injury filled year. He missed time twice during the season and continued to fight off the back problem that affected his playing time in 2004. When he did play, Ashworth was the starting right tackle, doing a solid job. He made an appearance at LT when Matt Light went down, and even played lead blocker at fullback. Ashworth - a former tight end at Colorado - managed to get his first career reception, a one-yard touchdown. He has played in 37 games (30 starts) in his four seasons with the team. With a number of tackles on the roster, and Matt Light returning from injury, the Patriots may look to address depth issue through the draft.
Stephen Neal, OG - An athletic lineman who moves well in space, Neal may draw a bit of interest on the open market. He made a highlight block on TE screen that sprung Daniel Graham for a 45-yard touchdown romp against Atlanta. Neal crushed the defender who moved in to cut off Graham, and then ducked as the big TE leapt over him to continue downfield. Neal started every game for the Patriots at right guard in 2005.
Ross Tucker, OL - The former starting center for the Bills was released by Buffalo prior to the 2005 season, catching the former Princeton Tiger by surprise. At 6-foot-4, 316-pounds, Tucker has the beef to play tough, smashmouth football. The Patriots picked him up but used him sparingly when they needed healthy bodies on the line. It's not clear how much interest the team has in retaining his services.
Matt Chatham, OLB - A special teams and utility player, Chatham has the drive to become a starter. The trouble for him is that he's behind a talented group of players who hold the starting roles so he doesn't see much action with the first team. Chatham has been in the lineup in goal line situations, and has the size to play inside as well as outside.
*Don Davis, OLB - Davis is one of the Patriots special teams all-stars. He has the versatility the team desires, playing in a number of the Patriots passing defense packages. In 2004 Davis filled in as a safety when the secondary had a shortage of bodies due to injury.
*Davis re-signed with the team on February 7, 2005.
Artrell Hawkins, DB - Signed November 15, 2005, Hawkins was one of the better in-season pickups the team managed to acquire. A former starter for the Cincinnati Bengals, Hawkins found himself on the field almost immediately. Once Hawkins slid into the starting safety role he became part of the team's solution in the secondary instead of one of the problems with it. Hawkins was out of football in 2005 until the Patriots called, so it's likely he'll be back if they decide they want him.
Hank Poteat, DB - Called upon by the team for the second season in a row, during the season, Poteat obviously offers the coaching staff a player they feel can add depth when they need it. A former reserve defensive back in Pittsburgh, Poteat has become the perfect illustration of the role players New England has been known to turn into producers on the field. 2006 may see Poteat in a Patriots uniform once again.
Chad Scott, CB - Another former Pittsburgh Steeler defender, Scott had a solid training camp showing much promise as a possible starter at cornerback, or nickel back. His size and experience were two assets that the team's other defensive backs didn't have. Unfortunately for Scott, his season ended early due to injury. He may return at the right price.
Michael Stone, S - This former Arizona Cardinal played well in the role he was asked to fill. First as an extra defender then as a starter, Stone did well enough to help the Patriots postseason run. Normally a solid tackler, Stone was caught out of position a number of times during games. He has potential, and could provide the much-needed depth the team needs. Not rated highly as a free agent, Stone could be acquired if the team had interest in doing so.
Adam Vinatieri, K - Mr. Clutch is headed toward free agency once again. Last season the Patriots were unable to work out a deal for the sure-footed veteran, so they slapped him with the franchise tag. This season the team is likely to put the same designation on him depending upon what happens with some of their other players.
February 23, 2005 -- The last day for teams to designate Franchise or Transition players.
March 2, 2005 -- Deadline for submission of qualifying offers by clubs to their restricted free agents whose contracts have expired and to whom they desire to retain a right of first refusal/compensation.
March 2, 2005 -- Deadline for clubs to submit offer of minimum salary to retain exclusive negotiating rights to their players with fewer than three seasons of free agency credit whose contracts have expired.
March 3, 2005 is the first day of free agency and trading period. Players not under contract will become free to sign with another team at that time, unless the Patriots designate them as a Franchise or Transitional player (Tag). Should they place the tag on those free agents, the players are free to sign an offer from another club, but the Patriots have the right to match the offer of receive compensation in terms of draft picks if they elect not to match.
April 21 -- Signing period ends for restricted free agents.
April 28 -- Deadline for old club to exercise right of first refusal to restricted free agents.
June 1 -- Deadline for old clubs to send tender to unsigned unrestricted free agents to receive exclusive negotiating rights for rest of season if player is not signed by another club by July 22.
June 1 -- Deadline for old clubs to send tender to unsigned restricted free agents or to extend qualifying offer to retain exclusive negotiating rights.
June 15 -- Deadline for old clubs to withdraw original qualifying offer to unsigned restricted free agents and still retain exclusive negotiating rights by substituting tender of 110 percent of previous year's salary.
July 22 -- Signing period ends at 4:00 PM ET for unrestricted free agents who received June 1 tender.