NFL Free Agency 2014: Patriots News and Notes From Day One

Wesley Woodyard’s visit to New England made news as unrestricted free agency opened on Tuesday. But the news involving Aqib Talib ultimately took center stage before midnight. (USA Today Sports Images)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

NFL League Year began at 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday. And right out of the starting gate, reports broke of free agents signing, re-signing and restructuring with teams, while roster cuts and trades filtered in as well.

But as some organizations proved to be active on March 11, others proved to be quiet behind the scenes, waiting for the dust – or money – to settle.

Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots fell under the latter category.

After re-signing long snapper Danny Aiken and tight end Michael Hoomanawanui – both restricted free agents – in the days prior, and after releasing seven from their reserve/futures contracts or injured reserve lists, New England passed through Tuesday without another official move.

In many ways, though, the moves around the league have set the table for the days to come. With that in mind, here is a look at some Patriots-centric news and notes around the NFL landscape.

Wesley Woodyard Set to Visit Foxborough

According to Brandon Kitzal of The Denver Post, Denver Broncos linebacker Wesley Woodyard will make a free-agent visit to New England Wednesday. The 27-year-old has played 87 games for the Broncos since entering the league as an undrafted rookie out of Kentucky in 2008, two of which came under current Patriots offensive coordinator and former Denver head coach Josh McDaniels. And while Woodyard is undersized for a prototypical New England linebacker at 6’0”, 233 pounds – most stand over 6’2” – he could represent a change in trend for the position.

A strong safety early in his collegiate career, Woodyard has the athleticism, quickness and coverage ability to potentially retool the Patriots’ depth chart. He has broken up 10 passes and intercepted four more over the last two seasons, also serving as an effective tackler, notching seven sacks and 201 tackles in that span.

Julian Edelman to Test Market

After a 105-catch, 1,056-yard, six-touchdown campaign in 2013, Julian Edelman will be exploring free-agent waters. The 27-year-old did so until April 11 last year, before inking a one-year, $715,000 deal to stay in New England, where he went on to earn 142 touches over 16 regular-season games. But this time around, the production is there and the former seventh-rounder isn’t recovering from a broken foot. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that the Patriots offered Edelman a three-year contract with the hopes of reaching a conclusion by 4 p.m., but the two sides couldn’t do so. A source told CSNNE.com’s Mike Giardi that Edelman’s side “did not believe it was fair value and did not like team deadline imposed upon him.”

This may not be the end of discussions between the two, but there is some feeling of déjà vu. The market for the slot receiver/punt returner should dictate the outcome. Cincinnati Bengal Andrew Hawkins – a player of similar skill set – has signed a $13.1 million offer sheet with the Cleveland Browns, per ESPNCleveland.com’s Tony Grossi, which could shift the level of interest amongst suitors. Time will determine how highly teams value a player with one year of top-tier production and a clean bill of health. And time will also determine the kinds of alternatives New England could come across if talks grow stagnant.

Brandon Spikes Bids Farewell to New England

With his rookie contract reaching its expiration date Tuesday afternoon, Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes tweeted for the first time in 64 days. His message seemed clear: “It’s been real, it’s been fun. But it hasn’t been real fun lol. Thank u to the cities of New England & @Patriots for an amazing run. #PoWwW”

The 2010 second-round pick out of Florida saw his fourth season come to an unceremonious end against the Buffalo Bills in Week 17, but the speculation surrounding his move to injured reserve appeared to all but seal his future in Foxborough. The 6’2”, 255-pound 26-year-old enters free agency coming of a season which included 11 starts, 694 defensive snaps and a league-best run-stop grade among inside linebackers, according to Pro Football Focus.

Dane Fletcher Travels to Tampa Bay

Patriots linebacker Dane Fletcher started his visit with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Tuesday night, as CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora first reported. An undrafted signing out of Montana State in 2010, the 27-year-old forged up the ranks to play in 38 games for New England. Primarily a special-teamer, Fletcher also spelled in as a role player on defense, recording four sacks, two pass break-ups, an interception, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries over his Patriots tenure.

Fighting back after a torn ACL in the preseason of 2012, Fletcher showed his strengths in flashes. However, the 6’2”, 245-pounder ended 2013 having played just 213 snaps – less than expected given the season-ending pectoral injury to Jerod Mayo and Spikes’ season-long knee battles. And although he could be back, it would be in his best interest to search for a starting opportunity if one arises. For what it’s worth, current Buccaneers GM Jason Licht was director of pro personnel in New England when Fletcher first signed four years ago.

All Quiet on the LeGarrette Blount Front

With rushing yards and touchdowns often working against the odometer, free-agent running backs aren’t what they once were. On Tuesday, that seemed the be the case, as perhaps the most notable signing was Toby Gerhart, who received a three-year, $10.5 million deal, according to Ryan O’Halloran of The Florida Times-Union.

This leads us to LeGarrette Blount. Only one year older than Gerhart, the 6’0”, 250-pounder leaves day one of unrestricted free agency without a contract signed. Blount compiled 64 carries for 431 yards and eight touchdowns over a late-season three-game span, averaging 6.73 yards per attempt and a touchdown per eight carries. And in reflection, he was well worth the seventh-round pick and Jeff Demps swap it took to acquire him last April. The way the chips are falling, it looks as if the Patriots stand a good chance at retaining him for a reasonable price.

Phil Costa Meets Patriots on Monday

In the waning hours of day one, Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post and The Baltimore Sun reported that New England met with free-agent center Phil Costa on Monday, before visiting the Detroit Lions on Tuesday.

The 26-year-old Costa was released by the Cowboys after he opted not to take a pay-cut. The 6’3”, 302-pound Maryland product went undrafted in 2010 but went on to start 20 games for Dallas, appearing in a total of 26. Costa played just one offensive snap in 2013, as the Cowboys invested a first-round pick in Wisconsin’s Travis Frederick. He likely, however, represents New England’s interest in bolstering the interior offensive line.

Cornerback Signings Swarm, Broncos Nab Aqib Talib

On Monday evening, NBC Sports’ Diana Marie Russini reported that cornerback Aqib Talib was “very close” to reaching a deal with the Patriots.  Russini added that the Washington Redskins were also in contention, but New England was offering the better deal. Yet as Tuesday wore on, reports surfaced that there were “no standing offers” for the 28-year-old 6’1”, 205-pounder. All while, the Indianapolis Colts re-signed Vontae Davis for four years and $39 million; the Green Bay Packers re-signed Sam Shields to a strikingly similar deal. And the Buccaneers inked Alterraun Verner to a slightly more modest four-year, $26.5 million pact, cites Ian Rapoport.

Yet just as his hip and hamstring injury history came back under the microscope, news struck two hours before midnight: Denver had signed Talib to a six-year, $57 million deal with $26 million guaranteed, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter first reported. What looked to be a softer market and a wait-and-see approach turned into the most guaranteed money for a cornerback in NFL history. Conversely, it turned New England’s attention to current Buccaneer Darrelle Revis, who could be traded or cut Wednesday afternoon. And although his contract treads a cap hit of $16 million through 2018, it’s more team-friendly than let on. That would undoubtedly change if the 28-year-old three-time All-Pro released, which means a team like the Patriots could control the situation via trade.

Tags: 2014 nfl free agency, Free Agency

57 Responses to “NFL Free Agency 2014: Patriots News and Notes From Day One”

  1. J H TARBORO says:

    Beware of the AFC East,the east is a beast!

  2. J H TARBORO says:

    Michigan St. Pro day WR Bennie Fowler 6’2″ 214 lit up his pro day, he ran 4.39 and 4.41 in the 40yds and caught the ball extremely well.

  3. J H TARBORO says:

    Patriots release Isaac Sopoga and Marcus Zusevics, that frees up more cap space and Pats are talking to Vince Wilfolk about restructuring.

  4. Ken W says:

    Wont be able to sign many other big names but could still get some solid guys to help the team. Hopefully hit on a few more in the draft.

  5. fg5 says:

    Revis signs with Pats, 1yr/12m, per Adam Shefter and Albert Breer.

    Sweet move, get a one yr rental of one of the best cbs in the league, no mortgaging the cap of the next years.

    • Someone said this will give the two parties time to work out a longer deal so don’t discount that posability. If that could be done I’d think it would be to our benifit.

  6. J H TARBORO says:

    Done deal Revis is a PATRIOT 1 yr deal!

    • fg5 says:

      beat me to it!

    • Ryan says:

      12 million a year, so he’ll be our one and only major signing.

      • Daniel R. Martin says:

        They can still free up some money and grab Darren Sproles and either Justin Tuck or another value edge rusher. This seems uncharacteristic of the Pats to overpay for a player.

      • Can’t think BB is done yet. Said to be working on restructuring Wolfolk and I bet on it that he has the same idea for some of the other higher paid players too.

    • Ken W says:

      So glad they finally paid for a quality player. Can’t wait to see what BB can do with Revis. They needed this badly after Talib went to Denver.

      • Daniel R. Martin says:

        They could have grabbed two top flight safeties and a decent corner for $12 M cap hit this year.

        • Bobthebuilder says:

          Nope. The top 3 safeties were already signed before this deal and if you’re lucky its 6 mil a S.

        • Ken W says:

          I don’t know about that, they might have been able to get a upper tier safety and a descent corner. But that wouldn’t have had the same impact as Revis. The Pat’s defense was pretty good when everyone was healthy and Talib was playing well. Now we upgraded to one of the top 3 corners in the league and I think with BB, Revis will be back in the conversation as the best in the league.

  7. Matt says:

    It kind of makes me sick to see the way the Denver Broncos are approaching free agency as a patriots fan. Now is the time to go all in for the next 3-4 years while Bdy is still here. I understand the argument of not overpaying for players because it can set your franchise back but lets be real, this franchise is going to take a downturn when Brady retires anyways. Unless they get the #1 pick in the draft and the prospect turns out to be like Andrew luck (highly unlikely) The Broncos went after 3 top free agents paid big money in route to keep their superbowl very much in reach for the next 3-5 years. The patriots on the other hand have lost their top FA. They are courting mid to low level people like Brandon lafell, matt shanassey amongst others. The Patriots just let their only real competition in the AFC to get significantly better while making you worse. The patriots need to go out and get REVIS and a combination of either Jared Allen or Julius Peppers. Keep Edelman and sign some mid to low level people. I don’t care what it takes. If you have to slash peoples salaries, (Mankins, Wilfork, Connolly) to get it done then do it. No more excuses! You have 3-4 years to win a superbowl and then the franchise is in rebuild mode once brady is gone! GO GET IT DONE!

  8. J H TARBORO says:

    Talib will be cut before 4pm

  9. kg says:

    Let us get some more middle of the road guys & we can all rejoice winning the AFC East! Cheap owner & arrogant coach – same results! Feel sorry for Brady for helping these ingrates to championships. BB is a great coach (one of the top 5 of all times) but was a 51-65 without Brady – mediocre at best!

  10. J H TARBORO says:

    Pats have WR Lafell,LB Woodyard,DE Shaughnessy in the building.

    • acm says:

      how ’bout Elvis, he still in there too? :)

      have to say like all three players. had they signed Joseph yesterday, I’d be having a ball right now.

      • J H TARBORO says:

        IMO WR Steve Smith would be better on 1 yr deal he’a a pitbulls that would bring veteran leadership, and toughness to our WR corp.

        • Joey NL says:

          Steve Smith in a Pats uniform against Aqib Talib in the AFC Championship Game. Can’t wait for that to happen haha! Ice up son!

        • acm says:

          Why am I sensing an “or” in there? Why not both? They did play together in that Panthers O, after all. I’d love Smith in should they fail to bring Edelman back and may well get a discount from SS given his age and the chance to go out with a bang.

  11. J H TARBORO says:

    Broncos, Talib,Ward, and Ware. My goodness!

    • acm says:

      no worries. they aren’t winning the SB and will be in cap-hell within 2 years. They are going all in now, grossly overpaying for names not best fits as they think they have a winning hand with manning and Fox. But that’s exactly their main weakness and reason all this spending is money in the wind.

      • J H TARBORO says:

        ACM, I have that same feeling, to many personalities and not enough team guys.

      • Russell says:

        I agree AMC Denver is over spending which will hurt the franchise long term no question. Not seeing much help on the Oline in Denver.

    • acm says:

      just saw the details of the Ware deal – 3 years, 30 mil overall, 20 mil in guarantees … for a player who will be 32 yo next season and was having issues staying healthy last year.
      With the talib deal from yesterday, the contract the Browns dealt Dansby is looking pretty smart right about now.

    • Matt says:

      Ya, that’s how they win a superbowl. They just got a top SS, CB and pass rusher while peyton has about 3 years left to win. All #’s can be manipulated to get under the cap years down the road. They decided to win now, while the patriots will win 10-12 games and lose in the playoffs and waste the last years of the best thing to happen to this franchise’s career (Brady)

      • acm says:

        winning a Sb is something they won’t do until they got manning and Fox guiding that ship. Scoring 8 pts in the Sb and mentally falling apart from the very start won’t be fixed by these signings. Fox and manning are mental midgets, that’s where the problem is – last year’s Denver team was not 35 pts weaker than the Seahawks but had the mental make-up of their coach and QB and disintegrated under the pressure of the spotlight. That weakness is still there today, just like it was there last year.
        What Denver is doing now is equivalent to raising a palace with quicksand for foundation.

  12. Jim R says:

    Patriots will not get Revis, 10+ million a year. They will do what they always do. It is boring as heck but effective. Do not discount this theory… Denver is a prime landing spot #weedis legal and the GM is spending like #endofdays

  13. JB says:

    I am a fan of Talib, but I am glad the pats didn’t match the offer the broncos gave him. Pats have two solid young corners in ryan and dennard, and for some reason are sold on arrington in the slot. There are a number of cheaper vet options at corner as well as good cb depth in the draft. What the Patriots really need is to upgrade their pass rush. Ware or peppers would be great signings if they could be had for reasonable money as they both offer scheme versatility and would vastly improve the rotation on the d-line. Only way the Pats make a run at revis is if wilfork is cut… however if they do cut Vince I would rather they make a run at Melton as he is a young and potentially dominant three technique.

    • JB says:

      Another concern for pats: Budgeting for future necessary re-signings of Nate Solder, McCourty and Vereen. Top tackles are getting 8-9.5 m in free agency and Solder is younger and better than brandon albert/veldheer/saffold. Safeties are getting paid well in FA as well and the pats pass defense would be in big trouble without McCourty. Vereen will probably command around 3-5m per so thats something to think about as well.

    • Brian Benzio says:

      Talib is not worth his price. But we could have snagged Ward for the price he was paid or even Verner.

      Tom Bradys last years are being wasted by planning for the future. If we win a Superbowl this year I could care less what we do in the next five, but I am tired of making it or almost making it and losing.

      • So very true Brian. It was almost better back when even a winning season was a joy. I too am sick of the half hearted attempts and band-aid fixes but that’s what it is and will be I fear.

      • JB says:

        I agree with you Brian especially about Verner. Kid was excellent last year, got paid the least out of the big cb’s, and is the youngest of the bunch. Still interested to see if the pats go after either of the cromarties.

      • acm says:

        Ward is too 1-D as a safety and isn’t even that great vs the run either – misses tackles and hits more often than a top run-stuffing SS should. Plus he is undersized for a SS (not exactly a Chancellor) and is a big liability in coverage (if you are gonna go smaller at SS then at least he better be able to cover to an extent). All in all, Ward’s production didn’t match his market hype – it wasn’t by chance that he went to the most cash-loose team out there (Broncos) and even then, he still signed for less than other SS on the market i.e. he wasn’t worth even that much.
        Also, not by accident his former team, the Browns preferred to pay more for other players – Byrd and Whitner – over keeping/franchising Ward and the one SS they did get (Whitner), is older. Same for the 49ers, who also went with an older player at SS over Ward.

        In regards to Verner, he is obviously a very good player and the one CB who didn’t get grossly overpaid yesterday. The problem with him is that he is a smaller-sized CB and is a better fit for the Tampa-2 Lovie Smith will use at the Bucs than what the Pats would have looked for in a Talib replacement – a big, physical, press-men CB. Verner’s size is what limited his marketability in the end – yes, CBs like Shields, Grimes, and even Davis aren’t any bigger but they stayed with their previous teams (already proven scheme fit, familiarity, etc) which is why they got overpaid so much.

        All in all, BB’s approach can be frustrating at times but if you are gonna throw a flimsy whimsy and criticize a multi-SB winning coach, at least make sure you know what you are talking about.

        • Brian Benzio says:

          He hasn’t won a superbowl in 10 years. The game has changed and he should adapt. Love BB and he will go down as one of the greatest but we have to win another Super Bowl this year otherwise we wasted Bradys career.

        • acm says:

          I know – my point however was how many have you won?

        • Tim D says:

          Free agency and the off-season as a whole is still young. As hard as it is to watch other teams improve through free agency, I can’t criticize BB after 24hrs of free agency. There are still quality players out there via trade or free agency. Lets see what team shows up to camp before we rule this off-season a failure.

  14. Brian Benzio says:

    Who else is tired of Bills “method”. We could have signed both Ward or Verner for the contracts they received. Instead we are left with nothing. Somehow the Broncos can spend whatever they want but New England cant?

    Unless we sign Alex Mack and/or Allen/Ware plus a decent cover corner like one of the Cromarties I am done with this team.

  15. Joe Blake says:

    Pats need to pick up one or both of the “Crows” (Antonio or Rogers) at DB for sure now that Talib is gone. BTW: I’m tired of hearing how Talib shut down Graham (NO) when Graham was hurt and missed games the following few weeks. Julio was also hurt..So let the Broncos overpay.

    • acm says:

      Graham was shut down by just about every half-decent D they played last year. Guy is a whiff and a whim in big games, hardly a measuring stick.

  16. Bruschi54 says:

    Obviously landing Revis and re-signing Edelman would be great, but the Pats still have the potential to come out of free agency better than when it started. Corey Graham is still available and would be a tremendous addition to the defensive backfield. Finnegan is also somebody that is still very talented and brings great attitude/presence to the field if they could land him. The ability to sign a Lamar Woodley, Jared Allen or DeMarcus Ware would be the greatest benefit to all of our DB’s and give the team what they have really lacked for a long time. I also think that the speed of Woodyard would be very welcomed as a replacement for Fletcher. The area that I feel really needs to be upgraded with a veteran is strong safety, there were some big thumpers out there who are all gone now, BB must really like the young safeties on the current roster.

    • acm says:

      there is plenty of talent and options left out there and the prices are likely to go lower as the market saturates after the craze on day 1 and cap spaces decrease.
      people are just tripping right now leaving all reason out the door, as per usual.

      • I hope your right acm, you usually are but I was really hoping Bill would make a run at Arthur Jones and JC Ward. Personally I get tired of the old has beens with “something still left in the tank” only to find they are running on empty.

  17. ramone77 says:

    talib to denver sucks. there was no way belichick was going to give talib that much $$$$. 56 million with 26 guaranteed. talib was great, but the truth is he was great for about 6 games this year.

    gotta get revis. we have to win now, brady’s window is closing. look at what elway is doing, getting aqib/ward. maybe ware. we should go for jared allen because we have no pash rush and if something happens to chandler jones we’re screwed!!! oh, and we can’st stop the run and have no depth at safety. brandon browner???

  18. Joe E O says:

    I would have thought that there would

    1) In regards to Endelman, haven’t we learned that “slot” receiver production is replaceable in the Patriots offense. Edelman replaced Welker, who replaced Brown. I am confident that some combination of Amendola, Boyce and a player to be named later will replace Edelman production. I think what the Patriots will do is more or less soak up the Endelman’s 151 targets among the RB, TE and a classic slot WRs. I going to propose a couple of dark horses to replace this production: Shane Vereen and Tony Gonzalez. I would also comment that the return of a healthy Gronk and the selection of mock draft favorite Jace Amaro would both help to replace this production.

    2) I am not so confident that the Patriots will be able to replace the production of Aqib Talib. I assume that Belichick will remain true to form and replace him with the lowest cost combination of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Cortland Finnegan, Antonio Cromartie – (who am I kidding – Belichick will not sign any of these turds). The question I have is – why wouldn’t the Patriots “rent” Revis for a year at the cost of a 3rd round pick and avoid getting into a bidding war with the reast of the NFL. I

    • acm says:

      did you really just ask that question seriously?

      because you don’t pay to avoid a bidding war when the price is already too high for anyone else in their right mind to pay (that obviously excludes that scrub of a GM, Reggie McKenzie).

  19. Tom Tardiff says:

    25 year season ticket holder here. I’m ok with Talib and Spikes leaving. However you must sign Revis and Edelmen, or this season is over before it starts.

    • munchkin says:

      I don’t see Revis being signed by the Pats. How do you then go to Wilfork and ask him to take a pay cut? Paying 16 million to a rent a player is not the Patriots MO. I wouldn’t give up on the season just yet.






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