The New England Patriots have twelve players on their roster with experience at safety. With all of the depth, would New England still consider adding another veteran like free agent Donovin Darius (Jaguars) or Robert Griffith (Cardinals) to the mix? Don't be surprised is what we were told.
Patriots Insider has been tracking these two players since their releases and here's what we've been hearing.
Rumor: The Patriots will add another safety as insurance in case Rodney Harrison isn't able to come back 100%.
Status: Warm - unconfirmed speculation.
Buzz: The rumor began with the release of Donovin Darius by the Jacksonville Jaguars last week. Darius fits the Patriots model of aging veterans who deserve a shot at the Super Bowl and he fits New England's team-first culture. He can also be a solid presence in the secondary if he's healthy.
More fuel was added to the fire when an interview of former Arizona Cardinals safety Robert Griffith was published in Sports Illustrated. Griffith mentioned that he'd be willing to be a backup for some team if it meant winning. He cited the Patriots as one option.
Reality: The word on Darius is that he is a candidate to land in Oakland, Buffalo or Carolina. According to Adam Schefter of the NFL Network, all three have expressed interest in the veteran. Scout.com's Adam Caplan believes that Carolina is the most likely team to sign a veteran safety, and it could be either Darius or Griffith.
Darius visited the Oakland Raiders on Wednesday. He left the Bay area without a contract but with other teams on his list to visit. Darius was appreciative of the visit and felt that he needed more time (visits) before he could make a decision . The Tampa Tribune reports that the Buccaneers spoke with Darius, but it was more of a passing interest.
"We like the addition of the two rookies we drafted who are going to be challenging for playing time," Buccaneers GM Bruce Allen said. "We checked into Donovin Darius, but we like where we're at right now."
The Oakland update and the Tampa Bay speculation come after Panthers' GM Marty Hurney refused to address Carolina's interest in the veteran.
"I can understand where it comes from," Hurney told the Rock Hill Herald.
"We're always looking to make our team better, but safety's not any different than any other position on the field." Hurney also claimed that the Panthers have guys they like and that the media is making a bigger deal out of Darius' availability than it should be. "It's probably not as big a deal inside the building as it is outside," he said.
Carolina will sign a veteran safety insisted Caplan. If it's not Darius, then it's likely to be Griffith or another veteran.
The reason it may not be Darius is because he flunked his team physical according to one league source that told Patriots Insider that's why the veteran Jaguar was released.
Possible Roster Impact: (Assuming the Patriots sign one or the other) If Darius is healthy enough to sign with the Patriots - and that's a big if - the Pats would likely rotate him into the mix with Harrison. If Harrison is healthy and Darius is good to go, then the Pats have a roster battle, something they would love to have. Neither is the player they once were, and both are better suited to strong safety.
If Griffith is in the mix, then the Pats would use him primarily as a backup, like Artrell Hawkins. New England doesn't need more veteran backups at this point, what they're looking for is to build youth at the position, something neither Darius (31, 32 in August) nor Griffith (36) offer.
The Patriots had some veterans in at the beginning of last season before ultimately signing Baker. According to Caplan, it's possible that teams will wait until training camp before they opt to sign anyone.