NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko
After a slow start to the free agent period, the Patriots have jumped in head first on day four. So far (and it’s only 1:30) the Patriots have four confirmed high profile veteran visitors and have already finished two contracts today.
Three accomplished pro bowl defenders and one restricted free agent are in the building, presumably putting together deals. We knew it was just a matter of time before the Patriots started unveiling their game plan and that time appears to be now. Here are the updates for day four and where things stand now.
– The Patriots have come to terms with former Bills WR Donald Jones. Jones was a restricted free agent who the Bills failed to tender. I wrote about Jones last night. It’s reported to be a three year deal. Jones brings some speed and a little more physicality to the outside.
– Three high profile veterans are visiting Foxboro tody. DE Dwight Freeney, DE John Abraham and SAF Adrian Wilson. Combined the three players have 16 Pro Bowls between them and 1 Super Bowl. From my experience the Patriots aren’t in the habit of bringing in veterans at this time of year unless the plan to sign them. Deals with this players may have been in the works and the visit could be for a physical to finalize things. Abraham especially seems to be the one who is closest to signing, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if all three are locked up on short term deals.
– Abraham is turning 35, but is coming off a 10 sack season in Atlanta. If it weren’t for his cap hit, he would be back there. Watching him last season he still has the speed and burst off the edge that the Patriots lack. Dwight Freeney made the move from DE to OLB last season and his production declined rapidly. According to Mike Freeman of CBS however, the Patriots have “serious interest” in Freeney and many in the organization think Freeney has “multiple years left in him.” In New England both players would offer sub-package rush ability and great depth for Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich. The lack of pass rush depth and actually pass rush ability really hurt the team down the stretch last year. It’s something that doesn’t get talked about enough and it looks like the Patriots are about to address it.
– I was told weeks before Free Agency began that the Patriots would make a hard run at Freeney. Bill Belichick really respects him from their battles in the AFC playoffs. I was also told that the Patriots intended to really beef up their pass rush. While it may look strange signing both players, it wouldn’t surprise me. With Denver and other contenders interested in Freeney, it would surprise me if Belichick let him leave without a deal in place.
– Wilson is definitely on the backside of his career and came off the field in nickel situations last season. What he could bring though is a physical veteran presence to offer leadership and guidance to a young safety group. Wilson can still tackle, still blitz and play against the run. He would be a real nice complement to the rangy, but not very physical Devin McCourty.
– As I write this news is breaking that the Patriots have agreed to a Four Year contract extension with CB Kyle Arrington. I have to see the final numbers on the deal, but it’s a good depth move. Arrington played extremely well in the slot last year after the acquisition of Aqib Talib. As long as the Patriots get Talib under contract and can lock up another veteran corner on a short term deal, then this deal is solid. I don’t expect the Arrington deal to be more than 3-3.5 million per year.
– The biggest news of the day (at least to me) is that the Patriots are visiting with Pittsburgh Steelers RFA WR Emmanuel Sanders. This news is surprising on a couple of fronts. 1) Restricted free agents rarely get signed to offer sheets now-a-days. Teams are too reluctant to give up draft picks to sign the player. 2) With a lack of draft picks the Patriots have to surrender a 3rd round choice or work out a trade with Pittsburgh.
Back in 2010 the Patriots had legitimate interest in Sanders. The team had a private work out with him and Bill O’Brien himself went to meet with him on another occasion. It appeared the Patriots had real interest in drafting him in the third round. Pittsburgh ended up drafting Sanders 8 spots ahead of them and Bill Belichick turned his sights on the next WR on their board, Taylor Price (UGH). The relationship isn’t new and so it appears the Patriots have had their sights on Sanders for awhile. While it’s tough to give up a draft pick, knowing the track record of this team and how they pick receivers it makes me feel better. This is a safer way to add immediate talent. Many widely assume the Patriots will use one of their first three picks for a receiver. Adding Sanders would be in lieu of that. What makes this even more possible is the fact that the Steelers are in horrendous cap shape and probably won’t have the ammo to match. All the Patriots have to do is front load the contract so the cap hit is big enough the Steelers can’t match. This is a situation that bears watching and is something that doesn’t happen often in the NFL.
– The final bit of news so far today is that the Patriots don’t intend to pick up Brandon Lloyd’s 3 million dollar roster bonus due this weekend. However, it appears that does not necessarily mean the end for Lloyd in New England. According to Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston, Lloyd is willing to renegotiate his deal to stay in New England. What complicates matters is Lloyd’s agent is Tom Condon and Bill Belichick hates dealing with him. It’s too soon to say Lloyd will be coming or going for sure. This is a situation likely to work itself out over the next 24 hours.
Stay tuned to NEPD for extended breakdowns of each signing if they become final. It’s shaping up to be a busy and exciting day in Patriot Nation!