NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko
Free agency is in full swing. The first wave is in the books and the second wave is winding down. We are entering the point of free agency where the good teams like to operate and find bargains that will complement a contending team. The Patriots have been relatively quiet, outside of the Wes Welker/Danny Amendola swap, but there is plenty of movement throughout the league. One thing is certain, the market is softening and there are a lot of veteran players out there sweating it out, trying to find any deal that pays them.
Here are my thoughts on day three of free agency.
Let’s get all the Patriots related nuggets out of the way first.
- Wes Welker was introduced to the Denver media today and it was a very surreal situation. It doesn’t seem real to anyone. The toughest part about letting him go is seeing the short money it took to sign him. While it’s not an easy decision to let him walk away, I do think long term it end up being the right decision. Last night, I spent a long time watching Danny Amendola (every catch the last 2 seasons) and I think he brings some more variety to the offense. When all the dust settles I will have an extended breakdown on my thought on the Welker/Amendola swap.
- The Patriots announced a one year deal with All-Pro KR Leon Washington. It’s hard to fault this move as the Patriots kick return unit has been horrendous the past two seasons and once Julian Edelman went down the punt return unit struggled too. Washington adds a dynamic element there filling a need for next season. Many people are quick to jump the gun and think this signals the end of Danny Woodhead in Foxboro and that is just not right.
-There is still a chance the Patriots bring Woodhead back to fill his traditional role. He wasn’t a very good kick returner and this area needed to be addressed regardless. Washington can at least compete to fill the need. If anything this move is competition/motivation/insurance for Jeff Demps who is going to be competing in track meets this summer. Remember, rosters have expanded to 90 players, the Patriots will sign a lot of “depth” players and find the 53 best in camp.
- Another bit of news from today is that Bills WR Donald Jones visited Foxboro. It’s not yet known if he will sign a deal, but 9 times out of 10 when a player visits a team facility this early in the off-season they end up signing with the team. Jones is an under the radar, sleeper type receiver. Jones is out of Youngstown State, he’s played three years in the league, improving his production in each of them. His two best games this year came against the Patriots, including a 68 yard touchdown in which he beat Kyle Arrington out of the slot. Jones is 6’0 tall about 210 pounds and makes some impressive catch and run plays on film. He would add a bit of speed and a more physical route runner to the perimeter which is one thing the team is looking for. Make no mistake about it, Jones isn’t and won’t be a star. But, as a #4-#5 receiver he would be an upgrade. With increased opportunities in New England he could provide adequate production.
- Before any Patriot fans flip out over Jones not being a huge “name”. There are no big names out there. The Patriots are going to have to draft at least one receiver they can count on next year to provide production. In 2010, the Patriots needed to rebuild their tight end position and spent most of the off-season striping down and scouting tight ends in the draft. This situation is similar to that. I have heard many times how the Patriots have been scouring this WR group in the draft and it’s time they hit at the position.
- The Patriots still have a number of FA sitting out on the market who remain unsigned. Chief among them are Aqib Talib and Sebastian Vollmer. It appears the Patriots judged their markets perfectly as all the large deals have started to dry up. The cornerback market especially is bleak this off-season with the average deal going in the range of 3 years and 15 million dollars. Dolphins CB Sean Smith signed a deal with the Chiefs today for 3 years/18 million and that should be a barometer for the Talib deal. Ultimately, I think the Talib deal comes in under that and may only be for two years so he can test the market again in a couple years.
- Speaking of cornerbacks the Patriots still haven’t signed any. That leaves them still with only two non-special teams CB on their roster. One is headed to jail (Alfonzo Dennard) and the other gets hurt walking to the microwave (Ras-I Dowling). It’s now a matter of WHEN and not IF the Patriots sign cornerbacks.
-The top layer of the market is drying up and I think the Patriots act in the next 24 hours here. The first priority remains Aqib Talib and it’s now an absolute must they wrap him up. One name mentioned late Thursday is Antoine Cason of the Chargers. Cason is a former first round pick that brings size, durability and athleticism. However, he has struggled at times over the past few seasons. At 26 years old Cason is still in the prime of his career and can turn it around in another system. Other teams mentioned with Cason are Cleveland, Carolina, Arizona and Jacksonville.
- One way or another the Patriots will be signing some defensive backs. I know it’s excruciating to wait, but on the bright side they are going to get great bargains. The veteran pass rush market is even bleaker and that’s another area I expect the Patriots to add some players in the next few days.
LATE BREAKING – One piece of late breaking news is that newly released former Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson is set to visit the Patriots. Wilson is 33 years old and on the down side of his career, but can still bring the physicality needed to the Patriots secondary. He is extremely durability and a great locker room guy. Bill Belichick sung his praises prior to the week two match-up. This move (if completed) will draw comparisons to the Rodney Harrison signing, but I wouldn’t go that far. Harrison had a lot more let in the tank, although it could be one step in helping the secondary.
LATER BREAKING NEWS – According to Albert Breer, John Abraham will be visiting Foxboro tomorrow as well. Abraham is coming off a season where he recorded 10 sacks in Atlanta. Abraham will turn 35 in May, but he still has something left as a pass rusher. I expect the Patriots to bring in a lot of these experienced veterans who can contribute next season on a low priced deal. According to a report on Reddit Abraham is already signed and coming to Foxboro to finalize everything, we’ll see if that turns out to be true. If Abraham does sign he will offer an experienced pure 4-3 defensive end that at worst can provide sub-package rush.
It appears the Patriots are starting to target their low priced, productive veterans to make next year’s team better. Even if Abraham signs I fully expect them to go after another rusher such as Freeney, Umenyiora or Dumervil if released. Stay tuned..
Around the League
- The Seahawks are loading up for a run at the Super Bowl. Cliff Avril is a great signing for them and now word that Michael Bennett is in the fold for 1 year and 5 million. The first thought is wow, followed by they must not feel Bruce Irvin is ready for prime time yet.
- Ed Reed appears poised to sign with Houston. I have to admit it’s not a relationship I anticipated entering the off-season, but with Glover Quin signing in Detroit the it’s a huge need for the Texans.
- I love the Steven Jackson to Atlanta signing. Anyone would have been an upgrade over Michael Turner, but they got a legit running back in Jackson. If he can stay healthy it will add another dimension to their offense.
- The Eagles continue to make big signings adding Cary Williams, Kenny Phillips and Connor Barwin today. I like the Phillips signing a lot if he can stay healthy. I am not a Barwin fan. He’s a vastly overrated pass rusher and the Eagles already have a wealth of overrated pass rushers. Cary Williams is a good solid veteran signing. By the way, I still think that Patrick Chung signing is the worst deal of the off-season.
- The Colts continue to make one positive signing, followed by a head-scratcher. I understand why they wanted to sign Ricky Jean-Francois, but giving him 4 years and 22 million with half of it guaranteed is crazy. The Colts entered the off-season with a ton of cap space and spent most of it on mid-tier free agents. Nothing wrong with that at all, but at the end of the day I don’t know how much better they are.
- Greg Jennings is having dinner with the Vikings tonight and word is they are putting on the full court press. The Vikings better land Jennings or else that is going to be one putrid receiving corps heading into the draft.
- Two underrated cornerbacks are off the market with Keenan Lewis signing in New Orleans and Derek Cox going to San Diego. Both got long term deals. While I think about why the Patriots weren’t more aggressive pursuing Cox and Lewis it makes me think that besides Talib (who they want for at least two years) the Patriots are probably comfortable signing some mid-tier veterans for one year. This philosophy limits the risk, while possibly striking it rich on one of them. I still think it’s likely that they draft a cornerback in the top two rounds to develop. The need right now is for a #1 (Talib) a #2/#3 and a slot CB. Whoever they draft will start as the number four on the depth chart.
- Matt Cassel to the Vikings to compete for the starting job. All I can think is wow. When reaching for a QB in the top 15 you better be right or it will set the team back for years.
Check back tomorrow for more thoughts on free agency. Hopefully, the Patriots will have given us more to talk about by then!