At 12midnight tonight, March 5, the 2010 free agent period officially begins and the New England Patriots are a team with some holes to fill. The question remains: will they be big players or small players in the market? History has shown that they prefer several mid-level moves rather than one big signing, but with the prospect of an uncapped year, will they decide to break the bank or continue to play it safe?
In this writer’s opinion, the Patriots need to fill several positions with proven players rather than draft starters.
Linebacker: It seems every offseason this is a pressing issue, but this season proved the need for some help at outside linebacker, especially once they drop Adalius Thomas (as it has been reported they will do) and to get help for Mayo on the inside. There are several free agents out there that could clearly help this team. Here’s a few I like for this team:
Keith Bulluck: He would be a perfect signing for the Pats: a tackling machine and a Pro Bowl caliber player who would provide great veteran leadership in the locker room. He is 10-year veteran and may not possess the speed of a great pass rushing backer but he has always been a play maker.
Why not a veteran white guy? Scott Fujita, Aaron Kampman, and let’s bring back Mike Vrabel. All three are solid linebackers and could fit well into the Patriots system, especially Vrabel, of course.
Antonio Pierce and Jason Taylor are two other names I think they will look into. They may be too old and injury-prone to sign to a major contract, but they would provide some of that veteran leadership this team needs. Karlos Dansby and Demeco Ryan (RFA) are great players but just too pricey for this team.
They will definitely attempt to try to sign Tully Banta-Cain who had a pretty productive season with the Pats leading the team in sacks, and if he doesn’t try to break the bank (again), should re-sign with the team.
Defensive End: With Wilfork franchised and hopefully signed to a long-term deal they need some help on the line.
The big name of course is Julius Peppers. I would love to see the Patriots sign this player, a speedy pass rusher who can play on and off the line. Perfect for the 3-4 defensive they play, but the market may be big for him and the price may be just too high (but a man can dream, can’t he?).
Other names that could provide great play on the line are Kyle Van den Bosch, Adewale Ogunleye, and Dwan Edwards, all solid veterans, but none have the marquee value of a Peppers.
Defensive Backs: Again, another position the Patriots need to fill each offseason, and the most likely candidates are veterans like Nick Harper and Dre Bly. Rather than paying top dollar for Dunta Robinson or Leigh Bodden, this may be an area they look to trade for a starter.
WR/TE/RB: There are certainly need s on the offensive side of the ball, but with many starters already in place it may be several complementary players. They do need a tight end and hopefully the reports of looking to trade for Greg Olsen are true. He would be a great pass catching tight end in this offense, but if not, Anthony Fasano would be a good option as a free agent. Wide receiver will be a tough one with the status of Welker up in the air and the readiness of Edelman to step up, but a good solid receiver could be the answer and veterans like Tory Holt and Derrick Mason could fill that possession receiver role until Welker is ready. My preference would be another speedy guy on the outside, maybe a Josh Reed, Nate Burleson or Kevin Walter, all solid receivers with big play ability. Finally, not sure they will pursue a running back but they might want to take a risk on several names: Willie Parker may have a few good years left in the tank, and Chester Taylor would most likely get big money but would be a perfect back for the Patriots, a big bruiser who can catch the ball and doesn’t need the ball 25 times a game. Most likely they will re-sign Kevin Faulk and keep things as they are or draft for depth.
This is just one man’s humble opinion but I do believe the Patriots will be active in the free agent market and will take care of their own free agents such as Mankins, Gostowski and Pierre Woods who are believed to be receiving tenders as we speak. The one thing we know here in Patriots Nation — it will be interesting and most likely unexpected.
Tick-Tock-Tick-Tock……….the clock strikes midnight…..
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Written by Jason Smalley