NEPD Staff Writer: Joon Lee
We haven’t reached Wild Card weekend in the playoffs yet, but it’s that time of year where we begin to look forward to the offseason. The Patriots aren’t a team that generally spends a lot of money in the offseason outside of signings like Adalius Thomas.
The Patriots do have notable players entering free agency, wide receivers Wes Welker and Julian Edelman, offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer, cornerback Aqib Talib, running back Danny Woodhead and safety Patrick Chung. Should they be re-signed?
For me, the number one priority for the Patriots should be resigning Welker and Vollmer. Welker has proven that he is still an integral part of the offense after Julian Edelman jumped ahead of him on the depth chart at the beginning of the season.
Edelman has performed relatively well this season, but has dealt with a plethora of injuries. Welker, other than his ACL tear, has been extremely durable despite taking hit after hit over the middle of the field. Tom Brady has come to depend on Welker as the tone setter in the offensive scheme, and despite comparisons to Edelman and St. Louis Rams wide receiver Danny Amendola, nobody can replicate Welker’s production.
Sebastian Vollmer proved this year that he is one of the best tackles in the NFL. The combination of Vollmer and Solder is one of the best tackle duos in the league and has kept Brady off his back for the majority of the season. Vollmer is likely going to demand a significant contract and unless the Patriots view Marcus Cannon or a prospect in college as a good replacement from Vollmer, expect the Patriots to work hard to keep the 4-year veteran.
Talib is an interesting case. In my eyes, Talib has changed the dynamic of the defense. By moving McCourty to safety, Dennard into a starting position and Arrington into the slot, Talib has moved the personnel of the secondary into a position of strength. Arrington is an exponentially better slot cornerback and Dennard has proven to be a steal as a late-round pick. McCourty and Gregory have been a very good tag-team. There are other options on the free-agent market for the cornerback position in the Falcons’ Brett Grimes, Lions’ Chris Houston, Bills’ Leodis McKelvin, who is a return specialist, and Eagles’ Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
Running back Danny Woodhead has long been one of the most underrated players on the Patriots offense. As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, Woodhead has done a splendid job of replacing Kevin Faulk since joining the Patriots in the 2010 season. Woodhead has been a crucial part to the success of the offense as a change of pace back and a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield. Woodhead, likely a system back, will demand a two or three year deal fro the Patriots and is likely to return.
The Patriots could also look to the NFL Draft for cornerback help, but Belichick has not had success drafting cornerbacks as of late (Terrence Wheatley, Ras-I Dowling, Darius Butler among others).
As for Patrick Chung, let him walk. Chung has been atrocious this year and has performed terribly in a contract season. Chung has shown strong potential at the safety position, but has seemingly regressed this season. Chung has been hampered by injuries and has seen reduced time with McCourty moving to safety, Gregory returning from injury and rookie Tavon Wilson showing growth throughout the season.
What do you think the Patriots should do with the four big free-agents? Discuss.