2012 Patriots Free Agent Preview

Tom Brady Safety Patriots

The Patriots will not spend this off-season lying down. (Photo: ICON SMI)

NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko

The best way to forget the Super Bowl is to look ahead to the future. Here we take a look at the free agents on the Patriots roster: who is likely to be back and who they will probably let walk.

The Patriots have a very young core and most of it is signed for multiple years. This year, there are a few key free agents that the Patriots will have to re-sign, but other than that they will have the opportunity to address needs via the draft and other team’s free agents.  

As the week goes on, I will take a look at what potential free agents might be a fit for the Patriots and potential draft picks. Today I take an internal look at the Patriots roster and determine who should and will be brought back.

Patriots Unrestricted Free Agents

WR Wes Welker
Welker is obviously the most high profile free agent on the Patriots roster. Welker is a vital cog in the Patriots offense and the Patriots offense is vital for Welker. There is absolutely no way Welker won’t be back with the Patriots next year. I expect the Patriots to use the franchise tag on Welker to retain his rights and take him off the market while working out a long term extension.

WR Deion Branch
Branch is a tougher call than Welker. He has already said that he hopes to be back with the Patriots next year. Branch has lost a step and is not a #2 or #3 anymore. I do expect the Patriots to bring Branch back on a reduced salary and a 1-2 year deal. There is no doubt WR is the biggest need on the offense and if the Patriots bring Branch back as the #3 and acquire a field strecther it will make the offense much more dynamic.

Branch has already had the chance to go somewhere else and make big money. He knows where the grass is greener and thus will be back.

RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis
I’d assume that BJGE has played his last game as a Patriot. You don’t draft a RB in the 2nd and 3rd round if you think you have your feature RB on your roster. Green-Ellis is a nice RB, he never fumbles and rarely loses yardage.

However, he can only get what is blocked. He lacks explosiveness, break away speed and big play ability. The Patriots already have Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and Danny Woodhead under contract for next season. Those three should provide a very solid rotation with a lot more explosiveness and playmaking ability. I expect BJGE to get a decent offer from another team and the Patriots will decline to bring him back.

OC Dan Koppen
Koppen is a tough one. He missed the whole entire season and was replaced by Dan Connolly. Connolly is also an UFA so I would expect only 1 to be brought back. Koppen has been a very solid throughout his career but he is getting up there in age. Unlike Connolly he does not have experience playing OG and that may be a factor. The Patriots have a very solid offensive line and is built for the long term. The one hole could be at center, where they could opt to draft one and let Koppen walk. As of right now I think Koppen is let go.

OC/OG Dan Connolly
It’s possible some team could offer Connolly a bigger contract, but the Patriots love his versatility and ability to step in whenever someone goes down. Connolly has steadily improved each season with the Patriots and rarely did you notice Dan Koppen’s absence.

Like I said above, it’s possible the Patriots draft a center (although I don’t think they draft 1 in the top 3-4 rounds) or they could bring Connolly back and give him first shot at being the starter. Either way, I think Connolly comes back as the top interior offensive lineman reserve.

WR Matthew Slater
Slater is a Bill Belichick favorite. Early in his career Slater made the roster over other players who may have deserved the roster spot. Slater missed all of training camp two years ago and still made the team, speaking  to how highly he is valued to Bill Belichick.

Slater has definitely rewarded some of that faith these past two seasons turning into one of the best, if not the best Special Teams player in the league. A team could try to offer Slater a big contract like the Jaguars did with Kassim Osgood a couple years ago, and that may be too much for the Patriots to offer. However, knowing how highly BB thinks of Slater I think he is back on a multi-year deal.

RB Kevin Faulk
Faulk is expected to retire and thus will not be back with the Patriots next year. Although I do feel like the Patriots will find a way to keep him in the organization as a coach/scout/consultant.

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Tags: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Brian Hoyer, Dan Koppen, Deion Branch, Free Agency, Wes Welker

10 Responses to “2012 Patriots Free Agent Preview”

  1. Jeff says:

    Good recap.

    I wonder how much interest BJGE will garner in free agency, curious to see if anyone is willing to offer him more than 1-2 years.

    As for Tracy White, key contributor on special teams but he’s looked down right Guyton-esqe at LB at times. I’m curious to see if they bring him back.

    Good riddance to Molden.

  2. tim kavic says:

    hello:
    I like anthony’s thinking with regards to possible new Pats. They need a top flight cornerback and Janoris Jenkins is that- especially at the Senior Bowl, where he dominated. Who knows about Ras I Dowling?- he is an “Xfactor”- if he is healthy. They need safety help- either Barron or Markelle Martin or George Iloka. Offensively 2 wide receivers are needed- Ocho and probably Branch will be gone- ideally someone with GREAT HANDS!- one thing here- did you all notice how the Giants receivers catch the ball- our guys aren’t bad, of course, but we need 2 receivers- one with size and great hands ..ex: Michael Floyd, Mohammed Sanu and speed to stretch defenses..ex: Joe Adams, Kendall Wright and several others. Everything else can be added as needed; a center, Dline help, etc. Finally I think the Pats will choose between Jermaine Cunningham and Markelle Carter. I truly hope we actually use at least 3 of our 4 picks on some of the above players…..Tim

  3. Lundahl says:

    I don’t think Law Firm will leave, he’s a very reliable running back, he scores at the goal line all the time and he’s a tough sob. I think pretty much everyone will be back, except for Faulk. It’s time to draft Hoyer and there are allot of teams with disgusting quarterbacks that can’t throw. You can get something out of him, like a fifth round or a six rounder. I like the kid from Purdue, he’d be a great fit. Plus free agency is coming up, players from other teams could be interested in joining us. The fact that we’ve played in the SuperBowl is excellent to attract good players.

  4. Bruschi54 says:

    The guy that may be shown the door is Ron “Bust” Brace, he Guyton & Ocho Cinco seem to have no chance of returning.

    • mARK DAVIS says:

      i WAS AMAZED GIVEN ALL THE OTHER ROSTER CUTS THAT OCHO CINCO WAS AROUND AT THE END…….NO PRODUCTION….HELL UNDERWOOD WOULD HAVE BEEN A BETTER wr

  5. Ryan says:

    What it comes down too is Welker and Love. Got to have them back.
    BJGE would be nice to have back, I just don’t see them giving him 6-7 million a year.

    Deion won’t go anywhere else. He was an terrible in Seattle. The other DL guys really depends on what we plan on running next year. Andre Carter is obvious but I dont think it will be tough to get him back, he hasn’t had this type of success since……. It would make a lot of sense to go 3-4, but its anyone’s guess now. A lot of guys have really improved this year, Spikes, Deadrick, Ninko, Love to name a few.

    Not sure whats up with Markell Carter and Cunningham, I hope we can use or start one of them next year. It would be nice.

    Ellis, Guyton, Underwood, Hoyer, (maybe Ocho), Koppen, Barrett, Brown, Jones, Warren, I don’t think we need any of them to be honest.

  6. iceman says:

    I think people on here over value Hoyer. He has never started a game in the NFL. He hasn’t proven a thing. Matt Cassell started and went 11-5 and we got a 2nd round pick for him and Vrabel.

    • Ryan says:

      Agreed, my guess is we could probably get 5th at most for him. People have seen what happens when you try and take back ups.

    • Anthony DiCenso says:

      I agree I probably overrated Hoyer but a 4th or 5th rounder is definitely possible. Or maybe shop Mallett. Bottom line is we need to get some late round draft picks accumulated.

  7. Anthony DiCenso says:

    Great article, I agree with basically everything. I think a lot of teams with a dynamic RB will be lining up for Benny as a compliment short yardage/goal line back. A bunch of teams like the Eagles and Giants ( assuming they let B. Jacobs walk) would love to have Law Firm as a steady backup to their dynamic starting backs. My wish list for resigning and releasing players is as follows; sign Andre Carter and Mark Anderson to short term deals (1 year for Carter, 2 for Anderson) and of course get Kyle Love signed Try to keep Slater, White and Ihedibo for special teams and backup roles. Sign Welker and if Branch is willing to take a 1 or 2 year deal for short money then great, sign him as a 3rd or 4th WR for sure. I would like to see Koppen back on a 1 year deal and sign Connolly if possible. Warren and Molden are sub par but could be depth guys for cheap short term deals. We need to release Ocho Cinco and let Guyton and Ellis walk.

    What’s up with Cunningham? Either let him play or show him the door! I hope we can get a good draft pick or 2 for Hoyer, I am thinking a 3rd and 5th rounder possibly? If we did get a 3rd and 5th then we would have 2 picks each in the first 3 rounds and then a 4th and a 5th. The needs we have to address is as follows. We need 3 DB’s in the draft and free agency. #1 on my wish list is Janoris Jenkins in the 1st round of the draft. He is legit: great speed, coverage ability and ball skills. He is similar to Rasheed Mathis but better. I also love Mark Barron from Bama at safety. He is head and shoulders above every other safety in the draft and can probably start right away. I would love to keep both first round picks and use them for once and truly upgrade our secondary with real legit talent. If you add Jenkins and Barron to Chung, Arrington, McCourty, Dowling and Moore and now we are talking. Add a veteran in free agency and we could go from one of the worst defensive backfields to on of the best in one offseason. In the second and third round we can look to improve the front seven as well as adding a young playmate at WR.

    One guy I really like is Joe Adams out of Arkansas. He is 5-11 and has great speed and I would equate him to a guy like Victor Cruz or Stevie Johnson. The fact that he played with Ryan Mallett in college should only help his chances of landing in Foxboro. Speaking of Stevie Johnson I think he would look great in a Pats uniform, although I don’t think Bill would put up with his antics. Either way we do need to add a veteran WR in free agency. As far as the pass rush I think a lot depends on the signing of Carter and/or Anderson and the decision on J. Cunningham. If we bring back Carter and Anderson then we can look at drafting an athletic DT to compliment Wilfork, Love and Deaderick. A guy who can bring some pressure up the middle. On top of that we need a young DE and 1 or 2 OLB via draft or free agency. Bottom line is we need to sign back Wes Welker, Kyle Love, Andre Carter and/or Mark Anderson. Aquire 2-3 DB’s, a playmaking outside WR, and add 2 or 3 more playmakers for the front 7. If we can do that we will be right back in the Superbowl with an even better chance to win.



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