Patriots Free Agent Update

Mike Wright agreed to terms with the New England Patriots late last week. The free agent defender joins a growing list of players signing up for another year (at least) in New England.


1. Outside linebacker: With Vrabel in Kansas City, the Patriots need another starter on the outside with the same savvy and intelligence. That might be hard to find in the draft, but there's a chance they could snag a replacement on the market. All eyes are on Jason Taylor, who was released by the Redskins and has always been a favorite of Bill Belichick. The need for another pass rusher makes this a reasonable acquisition.

2. Safety: James Sanders has been re-signed and Brandon Meriweather is still under contract, but it remains to be seen what happens with Rodney Harrison. Even if the veteran comes back for one more season after yet another debilitating knee injury, his shelf life is shorter than ever. The Patriots need a Plan B just in case Meriweather or Sanders don't continue to develop. Is either player the next Harrison? If not, the Patriots might need to address that problem in the draft.

3. Running back: Signing Fred Taylor gives the Patriots depth, but they still have question marks about who their No. 1 running back is going to be in 2009. Laurence Maroney may still be on the trade market come draft weekend and perhaps the Patriots could swing a deal that would yield them a higher pick, which could then be used on another running back. The Patriots have addressed a lot of needs this winter, but the running back situation is still dicey.

MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.

FRANCHISE PLAYER: QB Matt Cassel: Tendered at $14.651M; signed tender Feb. 23; traded to Chiefs Feb. 28.


--LB Rosevelt Colvin was lured out of semi-retirement late last season when the Patriots suffered a slew of injuries at linebacker. He played fairly well down the stretch, but it's unlikely they'll have a role for him next season assuming Adalius Thomas is healthy. Thomas played almost every snap last year until he broke his arm and rarely comes off the field. The Patriots need to continue getting younger at this position, which leaves no room for the soon-to-be 32 Colvin.
--S Rodney Harrison will likely be given a shot to bounce back from another injury, though the odds of him being his old self are slim at his age.
--CB Deltha O'Neal struggled throughout the season and will likely have a new home in 2009.
--CB Lewis Sanders did a nice job as a fill-in and even started on occasion. Could come back at the right price.
--LB Junior Seau was re-acquired when the Patriots lost Tedy Bruschi late in the season. As he did a year ago, Seau fit it in immediately and helped the Patriots bridge the gap. They'd probably find room for him if he wanted to come back, but his role would be limited.
--DT Kenny Smith has had injury problems that have kept him off the field for the past three years and he hasn't played an NFL down since 2004. The Patriots are deep enough at his position and would be better suited grooming another undrafted rookie than having to pay Smith for spending an entire season on injured reserve.
--OG Barry Stokes never got a chance to play due to injury and likely won't be back.
--S Tank Williams never got to play due to injury and will probably look to pursue his options elsewhere.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--OT Wesley Britt (not tendered as RFA) is a solid fill-in if re-signed who could get playing time with the team's tenuous situation at both tackle spots.

--LB Pierre Woods (tendered at $1.545M with second-round pick as compensation) had his chance to shine when Adalius Thomas got hurt, but broke his jaw. Had a breakthrough year by his standards and should be back.

--S Ray Ventrone.

--LB Eric Alexander (not tendered as RFA): $620,000/1 yr.
--P Chris Hanson: UFA; terms unknown.
--OG Russ Hochstein: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--S James Sanders: UFA; $9M/3 yrs, SB unknown.
--C/G Billy Yates: FA Patriots; $620,000/1 yr.
-- DL Mike Wright: UFA; $7.5M/4 yrs, with up to $10 incentives.

--TE Chris Baker: FA Jets; terms unknown.
--LB Tully Banta-Cain: FA 49ers; terms unknown.
--CB Leigh Bodden: FA Lions; $2.25M/1 yr, guarantees unknown.
--LS Nathan Hodel: FA Cardinals; terms unknown.
--WR Greg Lewis (trade Eagles).
--CB Shawn Springs: FA Redskins; 3 yrs, terms unknown.
--RB Fred Taylor: FA Jaguars; $8M/2 yrs, SB unknown.

--QB Matt Cassel (traded Chiefs).
--RB Heath Evans: UFA Saints; terms unknown.
--WR Jabar Gaffney: UFA Broncos; $10M/4 yrs, $3M guaranteed.
--LB Larry Izzo: UFA Jets; terms unknown.
--RB LaMont Jordan: UFA Broncos; $2.5M/2 yrs, guarantees unknown.
--LS Lonie Paxton: UFA Broncos; $5.38M/5 yrs, $1M SB.
--LB Darrell Robertson (released).
--LB Mike Vrabel (traded Chiefs).
--WR Kelley Washington (released).

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