Tuesday, February 7, 2012

20 New England Patriots free agents: who to keep?

Talk about not even taking a breath. The New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick really stated that on Monday, intimating that there wasn't going to be a long off-season for the folks down on Route 1. "We'll try to take a little time here, regroup, figure out some of things that we need to do and move forward. The combine is in two and a half weeks. I'm sure there will be lot of things on the agenda between now and then so we'll just take them as they come." The Hoodie said. So basically, they unpack from the Super Bowl loss, look around, and head right back out to the scene of the crime in Indianapolis for the beginning of the 2012 off-season with the NFL Combine. So, in light, lets take a look at the twenty free agents for the Pats.

Unrestricted
•WR Wes Welker: Welker should be priority #1 this off-season. The Patriots will likely use the franchise tag while they work out a long term deal. Possible issue: Welker will be 31 this year, and the Pats have typically resisted long term deals for older players. A three year deal ought to be the max for New England. The good news? Everything from the Welker camp is that he wants to be back.

•DE Mark Anderson: 10 sacks for the 28 year old out of Alabama should get him a flier back to Foxboro. The rub will be if someone throws stupid money at him to move on.

•WR Deion Branch: Branch is not who he was before he left. It would not be a surprise if Foxboro elected to get younger at WR and let Branch go. The problem for Branch is he may have limited options. He may need to stay here at a reduced rate and role.

•RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis: Law Firm's a good fit, but the Pats certainly won't pay him feature back money. He'll likely get good offers from other teams. The question is whether or not he'll want to stay.

•DE Andre Carter: Carter played well for New England, and was arguably the best pass rusher since the departure of Willie McGinest. His 10 sack would have likely gotten him a fat contract, but his injury late in the year may scare off some teams. Value will be the key to Carter's stay in Foxboro.

•OL Dan Connolly: Connolly is a six year vet who was limited by a groin injury this season, missing three games. It will be interesting to watch and see if the Pats opt to get younger here.

•WR Matthew Slater: Slater was named to his first Pro-Bowl this season, as a special teamer. He had one reception as a receiver. The four year vet will also likely get offers elsewhere, proving himself a versatile player, playing offense, defense, and special teams. Belichick loves guys like this, true football players. He'll be offered an opportunity to stay as well.

•RB Kevin Faulk : The 13 year vet has likely played his last down in Foxboro. He was notably inactive for Super Bowl XLVI. He only appeared in seven regular season games, and had only 24 touches. He'll be remembered as a great Patriot.

•DE Shaun Ellis: Ellis can be considered a disappointment, with only 14 tackles and 1 sack. Ellis will likely not be back as the Flying Elvii look to get younger.

•LB Gary Guyton: Guyton did not see any action this post season, last seeing the field week 13 vs. Indy. This can't bode well for a return in 2012.

•DB Nate Jones: Jones is one of those "off the street" guys, signed by New England November 30. Jones started the season in Miami, playing in two games. With Ras-I Dowling coming back from IR, he's going to have his work cut out.

•LB Niko Koutouvides: Another 8 year vet, Koutouvides recorded seven tackles and likely will be battling for a roster spot.

•DL Gerard Warren: Veteran leadership is what you get from the 11 year pro. The Pats may opt to get younger.

•LB Tracy White: Another area that the Pats need to improve upon on the defensive side of the ball. White's  37 tackles may get him an invite back, but like so many on this list, he'll be battling for position.

•C Dan Koppen : spent the majority of the season on IR. Do the Pats need to overpay here? No, but he's better option pass blocking than the younger Dan Connolly. Age is an issue.

•S James Ihedigbo: Safety is an area of great need down on Route One. Ihedigbo could be back, but not likely to be a starter.

•DL Kyle Love: Bring back Kyle Love. The young DL has plenty of upside and should be cheap.

 Restricted
•QB Brian Hoyer: What is the going rate for clipboard carriers? Don't overpay for Hoyer and keep the continuity until Ryan Mallett is ready.

•CB Antwaun Molden: Upgrade is needed in the secondary. Pass.

•S Bret Lockett: Spent the season on IR. Better than Ihedigbo?

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