NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko
With free agency starting on Tuesday, rosters for the 2012 NFL season will begin to take shape. Between free agency this week, the draft in April and trades made throughout the summer, each NFL team will look different when camps open.
In this piece I put on my prognosticator’s cap and try to project not only who the Patriots will draft in April, but who they will sign, re-sign and release along the way.
* This is pure speculation and not based on cap projections, just my take based on needs and whose out there. Based on the most recent numbers I have seen the Patriots have a little more than 18 million in cap space right now, including the 1.6 million they received for the Redskins and Cowboys going over the cap. Teams can also go three million dollars over the cap for veterans contracts each year. With players like Brady, Mankins, Wilfork and others possibly restructuring it could open up plenty of more cap space.
Here is my Patriots Offseason Projection:
Departures (Contract, Retirements):
RB BenJarvus Green Ellis
RB Kevin Faulk (Retired)
FB Lousaka Polite
OG Donald Thomas
C Dan Koppen
DL Shaun Ellis
DL Gerard Warren
DL Mike Wright
LB Gary Guyton
LB Niko Koutivides
CB Nate Jones
CB Antwan Molden
WR Chad Ochocinco
It just didn’t work out for Chad. The money doesn’t match the production so he has to go.
S Sergio Brown
Was expected to make a big jump in year two, it just didn’t happen.
S Josh Barrett
Often hurt and underproductive, position will be upgraded.
DE/OLB Mark Anderson – 2 years/6.5 million
Mark Anderson has played other places and flamed out. It’s tough to find pass rushers who fit the Patriots system and when you can find a relatively young one, you have to keep them. Anderson may try to find a bigger contract somewhere else, but I believe other teams are going to be a little cautious about giving him a lot of money. From all accounts it sounds like their is mutual interest in him returning to Foxboro.
WR Deion Branch – 1 year/1 million
Branch is much more valuable in the Patriots offense than he is anywhere else. He has already had his big pay day and saw what it was like away from the Patriots. He has repeated many times how he wants to end his career here. I expect Branch back on a one year deal for short money. I would also think his role will be diminished a little bit, and should be the number three or four receiver next year.
ST Matthew Slater – 4 years/4.4 million
Bill Belichick loves Matthew Slater. He drafted him in the 5th round when not many teams had a draftable grade on him. Slater made the team despite missing training camp with injuries. Slater is the special teams captain and a part of the leadership on this team. I expect the Patriots to try and get him locked up to a multi-year deal.
QB Brian Hoyer 2nd round tender – 1.9 million
The second round tender for QBs is 1.9 million. Another team could come after Hoyer and offer him a contract in which the Patriots would get a second round pick. I think Hoyer is back unless a team out there really covets him.
OG/OC Dan Connolly – 3 years/3.5 million
Connolly is a valuable interior lineman who can play multiple positions. He has filled in admirably the past two seasons when injuries struck. Bill Belichick has already locked up the other interior backup Ryan Wendell, so I expect a fair market value contract for Connolly.
DE Andre Carter – 1 year/2.5 million
While most people expect Carter back I can actually see a situation where they decide to go their separate ways. Carter had a great season before injury and is a great teammate. I expect Carter to sit on the market for awhile and then sign a one year, short money contract with the Patriots.
S James Ihedigbo - 1 year/600k
Ihedigbo can’t be asked to play as much safety next year, but he is a very solid special teams player and a fiery competitor. He should be back on an inexpensive contract.
LB Tracy White – 1 year/600k
White is a core special teamer and nothing more at this point. He plays on all the special teams units and is a great on kick coverage units. He is an important part of the team and the Patriots will bring him back.
Click on page two for the unrestricted free agents and draft picks.