Every year about this time, the world of free agency begins to slow, causing the news outlets to do more speculating than actual reporting. Agents aren't as forthcoming when they share the level of interest certain teams may (or may not) be expressing in their clients. And certain other sources are careful not to let escape proprietary information that might upset a potential suitor.
With the cloak and dagger strategy in full effect, we try to sort through some of the news we're hearing about the Patriots and potential free agent targets. We're also including some questions we received via email, which seem to contradict the information we have available.
Clark Haggans, LB (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Buzz: Reports the Patriots have no interest (reported elsewhere)
Reality: Patriots Insider reported at the beginning of free agency that the Patriots we're believed to have interest in this Steeler free agent. According to Dale Lolley - a Steelers beat writer - New England's interest was genuine from the information available to him. We're siding with Lolley as there are more reports coming out of Pittsburgh about the former Steelers contrary to the lack of information coming from the New England media.
Jim Wexell and Lolley - who cover the Steelers for SteelCityInsider.com on the Scout.com network, broke news on a number of former Steelers showing up on New England's radar in the past, and our bet is on them vs anything out of the New England camp. Plus, according to other reports, the Pats are one of three teams to show interest.
Haggans has drawn interest from the Browns, Giants and the Patriots so far. The Post Gazette confirmed Lolley's initial report (link)
Takeo Spikes, LB (Philadelphia Eagles)
Buzz: Patriots not showing interest in former Bill (Internet and radio reports)
Reality: When Spikes went on the record that he'd entertain a conversation with the Patriots; we put the rumor in the mill. Spikes then went on a free agent visit to the San Francisco 49ers, but left without a contract. Although a Bay area writer speculated that SF would make Spikes an offer he wouldn't refuse, what the writer didn't consider is that Spikes wants to play for a chance at a ring. According to Scout.com's Adam Caplan, the Patriots are interested in Spikes, although the level of interest is undetermined.
Citing an unnamed source, Caplan reported that Spikes failed his physical, and that led to his departure in Philadelphia. Concern over the injury status may be keeping teams at bay. "It's not known where he's at in his recovery from surgery on his rotator cuff which was completed on December 21 by Dr. James Andrews," wrote Caplan in a recent Free agency Buzz feature.
Buzz: The Pats are interested because he can play ILB and OLB
Reality: Lane Adkins at The Orange and Brown Report (TheOBR.com) reported that Thompson was close to signing with the Browns again, before the Texans made him an offer he couldn't refuse (more playing time). Although Thompson had experience in the 3-4 system that the Browns run under former Patriot defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, Thompson struggled to fit in, and saw his playing time evaporate.
A solid special teamer, Thompson will bring his uncommon athleticism to bear for the Texans. There was no confirmed interest by the Patriots in Thompson.
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Calvin Pace, LB (Arizona Cardinals)
Buzz: The Pats could have used a guy like Pace
Reality: According to Scout.com, the Patriots were interested in the talented defender, but not at the price it would take to land him. Pace signed with the Jets, and made a lot of money doing it. Much of the sentiment regarding the deal Pace received from New York questions the value of paying $42 million to a player who has had one really good season. Pace received $22 million in guarantees with 20 of it in the form of a signing bonus.
Why did the Jets pay so much? Because the Dolphins were also on Pace's trail, hoping to use Pace to rebuild a woeful Miami defense. Bill Parcells, who is currently running the show in south Florida, has a habit of collecting linebackers.
For more linebacker sightings, and team interest in free agents, be sure to check the Rumor Mill tracker regularly.