Patriots Free Agent Preview

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2012 Record: 12-4, lost to Ravens in AFC Championship Game
Key Pending Free Agents: Wes Welker, WR; Aqib Talib, CB; Danny Woodhead, RB; Sebastian Vollmer, OT; Kyle Arrington, CB; Julian Edelman, WR; Patrick Chung, S; Donald Thomas, G.
List of Draft Picks 1 (29), 2 (59), 3 (91), 7 (210), 7 (219).
Available Cap Space: About $25 million

The New England Patriots were one game away from reaching the Super Bowl and had their secondary to thank for that. When corner back Aqib Talib left the game , his absence was noticed. Talib, is an unrestricted free agent who is asking for big money in the open market.

They have the option of moving Devin McCourty back to cornerback . If the plan is to slip McCourty back to the outside corner position, that means they have to pay someone in free agency at safety (Ed Reed, Charles Woodson) and/or supplement the position in the draft.

The Patriots are also faced with a decision on whether to resign WR Wes Welker. Welker it seemed had a diminished role late in the season last year . 11.4. The percent of passing attempts aimed at Welker that went at least 20 yards, 10th lowest of the 82 receivers targeted at least 50 times.Welker caught 118 passes for 1,354 yards and six touchdowns while playing under the $9.515 million franchise tag in 2012. Using the tag on Welker again would cost New England $11.418 million – 120 percent of last year’s tender – in fully guaranteed base salary in 2013, which would bring his two-year total to $20.933 million. The Patriots may have been able to do a long-term extension for that amount of guaranteed money, which is what makes a second tag unlikely.

The offensive tackle position for the New Patriots is extremely important because you are in change of protecting future Hall of Fame QB Tom Brady so you would have to think that Sebastian Vollmer is the most obvious choice for the franchise tag. The franchise tag for an offensive lineman is projected to be worth $9.66 million in 2013.Vollmer, who ProFootballFocus.com rated as the No. 22 tackle in the NFL in pass blocking efficiency for players that played in at least 50 percent of their team’s snaps. In 617 offensive snaps, Vollmer allowed only 35 pressures. Along with second-year pro Nate Solder (rated No. 23 overall by the site), Vollmer represents a core piece of the team’s stability. Signing him now, going into his fifth year, should be the the team’s No. 1 priority.

The New England Patriots also need to find a new number 2 receiver to take some pressure off of Wes Welker, shall he return. The Patriots are expected to release WR Brandon Lloyd. Lloyd’s reported “erratic behavior in the locker room and on the practice field” is the team’s main motive for not wanting to touch Lloyd’s $3 million option bonus, a contract stipulation that gives the team an out if Lloyd’s time with the team isn’t as successful as originally hoped.

Look for the Patriots to go hard at free agent wideout Mike Wallace. Last season, after a lengthy holdout with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Wallace started 15 games and finished with 64 receptions for 836 yards and eight touchdowns. His long reception was for 82 yards.They will have competition for Wallace as the Cleveland Browns are willing to spend about $11 million a year for Wallace. The logic of new head coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner “believe in a vertical-oriented passing offense” is far too convenient for this interest.

The New England Patriots are expected to make a run at DE Dwight Freeney who despite his age is going to be the best past rusher available. He’s a seven-time Pro Bowler with seven double-digit sacks seasons, and even at this later stage in his career could still be an effective edge rusher for many teams around the NFL.Freeney is on the last legs of his career and should be looking to link on with a Super Bowl contender for the home stretch which is why New England is a good choice.

Post By Brian Harrington (5,320 Posts)

CEO of ProFootballCentral.com

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