Patriots Could Earn Compensatory Picks in ’14 By Letting Free Agents Leave

Allowing Aqib Talib (left) to walk could potentially result in a compensatory pick next season. (Photo: US Presswire)

NEPD Editor: Matthew Jones

At this point, there’s an argument to be made that New England should attempt to re-sign all three of their major free agents: wide receiver Wes Welker, offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer, and cornerback Aqib Talib. The aforementioned players were all major contributors in New England’s successful 2012 season, and it’s possible that releasing any of the players could create holes on the roster which New England may find themselves unable to fill immediately, especially as they attempt to upgrade their roster in other areas with a limited number of draft picks. However, it may be even wiser for the Patriots to let some or all of those free agents depart this offseason.

Financial considerations form the backbone of New England’s inability to reach an agreement with Welker. The franchise tag is an option technically but not logistically, with an $11.4 million figure that would cripple New England’s salary cap flexibility and represent a costly addition to a stable of offensive weapons which already includes highly-paid targets such as Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, and Brandon Lloyd.

In addition to financial concerns, Welker is already in his thirties (he turns 32 in May) and could be nearing the downside of his career. The Patriots have historically operated under the assumption that it’s better to part ways with core players a year early rather than a year late (Lawyer Milloy, Ty Law, Willie McGinest, and Mike Vrabel come to mind), so it may not be wise to grant Welker a long-term contract when wide receivers traditionally see a drop in their production around age 32 or 33.

The last argument against Welker is the overall depth of the wide receiver options available this offseason. Signing a free agent such as St. Louis Rams receiver Danny Amendola could represent a stronger investment, as Amendola is only 27 years old and has been similarly reliable out of the slot in St. Louis; additionally, he is capable of running many of the same routes as Welker does. It would also not come as a surprise if Amendola eventually signs for less money than Welker. The wide receiver class in this year’s draft is deep as well, with ten to fifteen receivers projected to be picked within the first three rounds.

New England is rumored to be preparing to offer Sebastian Vollmer a deal with an average annual value of six or seven million dollars per season, but such a signing could also prove ill-advised in retrospect. Vollmer is among the league’s top right tackles, but will likely demand a long-term extension which may limit the Patriots’ ability to extend other significant players in the coming years such as Nate Solder, Brandon Spikes, and Devin McCourty. Additionally, offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia has always done a fantastic job with the offensive line, and in comparison to wide receiver and defensive back, New England’s draft evaluations have been more accurate along the line.

Aqib Talib’s past character concerns, his inability to stay on the field for New England last season, and rumors regarding his questionable work ethic (the last of which are admittedly impossible to confirm) should also see him in another uniform next season. Simply put, the risk factor may be too high for a player with so many questions, and at 27 years old with impressive physical tools, Talib is a prime candidate to get overpaid in free agency. Although the Patriots are currently thin at cornerback (even more so following Alfonzo Dennard’s conviction for felony assault), Talib’s play was somewhat erratic in 2012, and he could potentially be replaced for cheaper in the draft or through free agency.

Another important factor to consider which has not been explored in great depth thus far this offseason is the possibility of acquiring valuable compensatory picks in next year’s draft class by allowing these players to sign elsewhere. This provides an additional incentive for the Patriots, especially considering their lack of draft choices in 2013. Players such as Eric Wright and Ben Grubbs signed elsewhere last offseason, giving Detroit and Baltimore each fourth-round compensatory picks in this year’s class. Those players earned contracts which averaged between $5 and $5.5 million per season, numbers which players such as Welker, Vollmer, and Talib would be expected to exceed.

With just five picks in 2013, New England is expected to have a relatively shallow rookie class, so adding three additional picks in next year’s draft would help replace this year’s missing sleections. A fourth-round choice for Talib would effectively replace the fourth-round pick New England sacrificed in order to acquire him from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season.

Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, Aqib Talib, NFL, Patriots, Sebastian Vollmer, Wes Welker

13 Responses to “Patriots Could Earn Compensatory Picks in ’14 By Letting Free Agents Leave”

  1. Jim Keddy says:

    If you lose three top free agents and don’t sign three top
    free agents, your overall team is weaker.

  2. toybkshr says:

    I concur with CC & Bill, keep Loyd. Looks like Welker is
    gone, cutting a decent #2 wideout doesn’t make sense.

  3. yopats says:

    Russell..

    Do the amount of free agents we sign alter the comp picks? If so how does that work exactly.

    • Russell Easterbrooks says:

      Yes it does, alter the Comp picks ! If we lose Welker only and then sign Armendola it is looked at as a wash. NO Comp.pick.
      If we lose Welker, Talib, Arrington, and sign Woodson, Armendola, we would most likely not any Comp. picks.

      The system is not clear cut, but basicly , at the owners meeting they look at fair value, snaps played, cost etc. when comparing players lost, and players signed as free agents. If the value in free agent players is a loss for the team ,Comp. picks are awarded. If the free agent value is a plus for the team. NO comp. picks are awarded.
      The value of the pick is determed by loss by the team, if we lose welker, talib, arrington , and sign NO free agents. I would think, we could get, TWO 4th round picks, or 4th and Two 5th picks, etc.
      Hope that helps.

  4. Russell Easterbrooks says:

    I believe Vollmer is the most likely to sign of the three. 1st Vollmer has had injury issues, which may make teams less likely to offer him a contract. 2nd when healthy, Vollmer is a great player, 3d if Vollmer leaves , the Patriots will need to draft an OT to compete for the job, with Markus Zusevics. Keeping Tom up-right is THE most important thing the Patriots need to do.
    Thier Oline played well, with Mankins and Connolly missing games. So My guess is they sign Vollmer, (3-4 years 5.5 -6.5 Mil.) develope Zusevics, and DRAFT an OG/T that can develope,/help if there is an injury, to replace, Connolly or Mankins in a year or so as a LONG term starter.
    If Welker and Talib leave, AND the Patriots don’t sign any major free agents, then YES they would get some quality compensatory picks in 2014. If they sign Amendola that would nearly off-set the loss of Welker, and we wouldn’t get a compensatory pick there, but still could get one for the loss of Talib.
    With Talib gone we now NEED to draft a CB, and maybe should ANYWAY, to add youth.
    My guess here is we put the tag on Talib, giving us one year to see what he offers, Draft a CB to develope, or play the slot, and let Arrington go, saving that money to justify the tag on Talib. Drafting a 7th round CB prospect for depth, with a hopefuly heathy Dowling.

    • Russell, keep in mind that New England also drafted Marcus Cannon, who was an offensive tackle in college and who had been projected as a second-round pick or so before being diagnosed with Cancer. I’d imagine Cannon would be ahead of Zusevics on the depth chart.

      • Russell Easterbrooks says:

        I agree, however Cannon has played far better at OG than OT. But he is a BB type guy, able to play two positions. I have not seen Cannon on the left OT, only Right OT. Zusevics is listed on the left side OT backing-up Solder.

        • CC says:

          True. Reason for the Pats #1 need IMO, ” The best (L) O.T. around dropped right in the middle of what we currently. Have now solidifies our O-line in need of no matter what WR, TE, FB, Scatback, or other we use.
          Rock solid O-line guarantee is the 1st must.

          Brady needs more comfort time in choosing any target newer or not. Aways relying on welker as a security blanket is limiting his potential and keeping us from doing it things on 2nd & 3rd shorts VS 3rd&4th longs.

          22ND would be a Wilfork compliment on the line……long awaited.

        • CC says:

          22nd…..meant 2nd only!
          (Specifically-our 2nd/59th overall pick)
          Even if it meant using that 59th+one of the 7th round picks included in order to move up a simple few jump spots.
          2nd pick should deffinetly be used on a compliment to Big Vince.

      • Russell Easterbrooks says:

        Thanks for a great article Matthew, the Comp. picks are a very miss understond system.

    • Bill says:

      Sign vollmer, tag Talib, offer Welker a deal around 2 years at 5-6 per. They could release Lloyd to get most of that and draft a WR with the 1st or 2ndpick.
      I would like to see the first 3 picks something like a WR, SS, and a faster type OLB

      • Russell Easterbrooks says:

        The Question is does Welker want money, or remain a Patriot. I would hold on to Lloyd. Draft a WR/Slot guy , (Makus Wheaton), OLB ( LB/S DeVonte Hollomam 6’2″ 235 ) and sign Jim Leonard S at Min. Veteran $800K , and draft a SS in the 7th, SS Cooper Taylor 6’4″ 220, Kenny Tate 6’3″ 218, Zeke Motta , etc.

      • CC says:

        Totally keep Loyd Bill. Without question.
        A better O-line gives TB12 more time 2 see “Anyone” better.
        All his own targets and oopposition.
        A little less hurry up offence when its not needed will do wonders.
        Loyd deserves at minimum Double/Twice what Taylor Price got not 1/2.
        Loyd will frourish in our Wide Out sets for us “if” they have a better O-line.
        So will Aron Hernandez…as he sits 1/2 time in Welkers spot while the nect rookie is being groomed.






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