1. Defensive end/outside linebacker: New England
needs to add youthful impact players on the edge. Mark Anderson and Pro
Bowler Andre Carter tied for the team lead with 10 sacks last year, but
both are free agents and Carter is coming back from a torn quad. Even
if one or both of the veterans return, a developmental playmaker is a
necessity on the edge.
2. Defensive back: Devin McCourty clouds New
England's needs in the secondary a bit. A Pro Bowl corner as a rookie
in 2010, McCourty struggled mightily last year and was actually moved
to safety late in the year. If he stays at safety, the Patriots could
be in the market for a top-end cornerback prospect. Either way the team
needs to add talent to a safety position that was a major hole
3. Wide receiver: Tom Brady's receiving corps is
aging and lacks an outside presence. In a draft full of big, speedy,
outsider receivers, New England needs to go after one even after adding
Brandon Lloyd and Anthony Gonzalez.
MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: WR Wes Welker (tendered at $9.515 million).
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--DE Mark Anderson had a career resurgence to tie
for the team lead with 10 sacks, his first double-digit sack effort
since his rookie season in 2006 in Chicago. The Patriots have been
trying to build a pass rush for a couple years, so re-signing Anderson
would be a palatable option. But the team can't overpay for a
complementary pass rusher like it did a few years back with Tully
--WR Deion Branch has watched his role diminish
over the last two years with the emergence of the two tight ends, but
he could be back at a reasonable price if the Patriots are unable to
nail down a legit No. 1 receiver.
--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.
--RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis has developed into the
team's most reliable ball-carrier for his ability to pick up the tough
yards and exceptional ball control. He's yet to fumble in the NFL.
Expect to see him in New England next year.
--LB Gary Guyton watched his role reduce
dramatically this season and likely won't return next season.
--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.
--C Dan Koppen missed most of 2011, though he
hopes to re-sign with the team. This is a dicey proposition. The
Patriots got by without him last year and might decide to go with a
younger, cheaper and healthier alternative for the long haul.
--CB Antwaun Molden dealt with some injuries
toward the end of the year, but should be in the mix next season given
the team's lack of a true shutdown corner. Like most free agents, he'll
be back at the right price.
--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
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--QB Brian Hoyer (tendered at $1.927M with
second-round pick as compensation) has been Tom Brady's backup for the
past three years, so it's likely he'll stay in New England.
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.
--OG Dan Connolly: UFA; terms unknown.
--LB Niko Koutouvides: Potential UFA; $825,000 1
--WR Matt Slater: UFA; $5.4M/3 yrs, $2M SB.
--LB Tracy White: UFA; $990,000/1 yr, $300,000
--DE Jonathan Fanene: UFA Bengals; $12M/3 yrs,
--WR Anthony Gonzalez: UFA Colts; terms unknown.
--SS Steve Gregory: UFA Chargers; $8.5M/3 yrs,
--DT Marcus Harrison: FA; terms unknown.
--WR Brandon Lloyd: UFA Rams; $12M/3 yrs.
--DL Trevor Scott: UFA Raiders; 1 yr, terms
--OG Rich Ohrnberger (released/failed physical).
--DE Mike Wright (released/failed physical).
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