New England Patriots Offseason: Expiring Contracts Analysis

DE Trevor Scott

One season removed from a season-ending ACL tear, Trevor Scott joined New England this past offseason and regained enough of his athleticism to contribute 289 fairly productive defensive snaps. Scott, who turns 29 in August, started two games with the Patriots and recorded three sacks and one forced fumble on the season as a rusher out of two and three-point stances while making additional contributions on special teams. However, he may be a casualty of New England’s deep defensive end rotation, which includes many younger players.

LB Dane Fletcher (RFA)

Dane Fletcher ended up missing the 2012 season after tearing his ACL in the preseason opener, but he is expected to be ready in time for the beginning of New England’s offseason. Fletcher’s absence highlighted the club’s lack of linebacker depth this year, as Rob Ninkovich was forced to shift from defensive end to both middle and strongside linebacker at times this year; the Patriots also played Bobby Carpenter, Niko Koutouvides, Jeff Tarpinian, Michael Rivera, and Tracy White lightly. Before getting injured, Fletcher’s workload had increased from 166 snaps in 2010 to 304 in 2011; look for New England to retain his services.

LB Niko Koutouvides

Koutouvides played 46 defensive snaps in 2011, but that number fell to just nine in 2012; he added just two tackles on special teams. Although Koutouvides, who turns 32 in March, has the versatility to play either middle linebacker or strongside linebacker, it appears that the Patriots are ready to part ways with the veteran. His best chance of rejoining the squad would be as an injury replacement; look for him to land on New England’s emergency list this season.

LB Tracy White

Speaking of special teams contributors with declining production, Tracy White made just four tackles on New England’s special teams units this season while appearing on 72 defensive snaps after making it onto the field for 250 in 2011. White dealt with an injury issue which caused him to miss five games, and his declining production on special teams units will likely push him out of New England, especially because his defensive value is relatively low.

CB Kyle Arrington

Arrington played more snaps for the Patriots this season than any defensive back aside from Devin McCourty; like McCourty, Arrington was asked to move between two different positions. Arrington began the season as a right cornerback, but ended up with slot responsibilities for much of the season’s second half, where he was more successful.

Arrington allowed four touchdowns on the outside compared to one as a slot defender; however, that raises the question of whether Arrington should be compensated as a starter (having played 947 snaps) or as a reserve (due to his position.) For a modest sum, the Patriots should be interested in bringing Arrington back, but if he demands to be paid like a quality starter, New England should show him the door and look for a replacement in the draft.

CB Marquice Cole

Cole was signed by the Patriots for his exception special teams ability, but he also factored in more than expected as a defender, taking 232 defensive snaps this season, primarily in the slot. He finished the season having allowed 16/27 passing for 215 yards and one touchdown, intercepting one pass. New England would be wise to try and work out a one-or-two-year deal with Cole, whose special teams contributions alone warrant a roster spot, but whose coverage ability was a pleasant surprise in 2012.

CB Derrick Martin

Derrick Martin was an intermittent contributor for the Patriots in 2012, most notably playing 51/59 snaps in New England’s season finale victory over the Miami Dolphins, a game in which he recorded one sack and one hurry. He also made three special teams tackles on the season. Martin likely won’t alter New England’s offseason plans in any way, but he could be brought back on a non-guaranteed one-year deal to provide a swing reserve capable of lining up at cornerback or safety.

CB Aqib Talib

Aqib Talib’s contract negotiations could get messy this offseason, as he would be justified in seeking a long-term contract with significant guaranteed money after spearheading the secondary’s resurrection. New England, on the other hand, may have reservations about committing too much money to a player who has only been on the team for six games and whose prior decisions earned him a league-mandated suspension this season. After allowing two touchdowns and eight catches in his Patriots debut, Talib limited opposing quarterbacks to 21/34 passing for a total of 235 yards, with no touchdowns or interceptions in that span.

Perhaps more importantly, Talib’s presence allowed Devin McCourty to move to strong safety and New England’s coaching staff more creativity in employing man coverage shells; Talib’s highlight this season was likely his lockdown performance vs. Andre Johnson in week fourteen (2/3, seventeen yards, one pass defensed.) This year’s draft class features a number of potential starters in the defensive backfield, but the Patriots have historically been unable to develop prospects in the secondary; the confidence, the flexibility, and the stability Talib brings are worth a two or three-year deal at market value.

FS Will Allen

Will Allen, a twelve-year veteran who turns 35 in August, was surprisingly placed on injured reserve by New England during the preseason and retained on the reserve list for the entire season rather than being released with an injury settlement a la Torry Holt. His age and injury history (spent most of 2009 and all of 2010 on injured reserve) will likely prevent him from earning a roster spot with the Patriots, but he may return as a mentor through training camp and preseason if he is still interested in playing.

SS Josh Barrett

Josh Barrett may have an incredible combination of size (6’2”, 225 pounds) and athleticism (ran the 40-yard dash in 4.34 seconds at the 2008 NFL Combine), but he has been constantly injured in recent years. Barrett spent all of 2010 on injured reserve with a shoulder injury and the past two seasons on IR with calf injuries, playing in five of the past 48 regular season games. At this point, he is likely too unreliable to warrant re-signing, even though his skillset is well-suited to New England’s hybrid linebacker/safety position.

SS Patrick Chung

New England’s top pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, Patrick Chung was expected to develop into a versatile defensive enforcer in the deep secondary, but that instead took a step back in his contract year, likely pushing him off of the Patriots and into the free agent pool, where he will look for another starting opportunity.

Chung missed eight games in 2011 and four more this season while losing his starting job to Steve Gregory. Chung’s durability and tightness in coverage make him a risky financial investment for New England or another club; due to the lack of quality safeties in the NFL, Chung is one free agent who could be overpaid on the open market.

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24 Responses to “New England Patriots Offseason: Expiring Contracts Analysis”

  1. JV says:

    Here i what I know, Cannon was horrible at RT when filling in for Volmer. I can see Cannon at RG but not RT.

    Steven Gregory = Backup on most every team in the NFL. Pats NEED to a real NFL starter next to McCourty.

    • Russell Easterbrooks says:

      Cannon is better at OG for sure, can help at OT in a pinch but thats it. Patriots will resign Vollmer first I think.
      I’m not sold on Gregory either, back-up , with Chung gone. Draft a guy to play SS DeVonte Holloman .

  2. Dano S says:

    First sign Wes Welker him and Brady are a fine running machine.
    Sign Leodis McKelvin CB/KR Bills, Brian Hartline WR Miami,
    Connor Barwin OLB Houston and Gosder Cherilus OT Lions.
    Draft 1st pick Trade for 2 and 4. 2nd pick Trade for 3 and 5. 2 Alex Okafor DE
    Texas 3 DaRick Rogers WR Tennessee Tech 3 Josh Evans S Florida
    4 Brian Winters OT Kent State 5 Brandon Williams DT Missouri Southern
    7 David Bakhtiari G Colorado 7 BW Webb CB William & Mary.

    • Russell Easterbrooks says:

      Interesting ! I think OT Brain Winters will be gone by the end of the 2d round. DT Brandon Williams will be gone by the end of the 3d.
      I like signing WR Hartline IF Wekler leaves.
      McKelvin is interesting too, it all depends on money. IF you spend on McKelvin you would let Talib walk.
      OLB and Oline go younger, smaller contract’s to start.

  3. Heather says:

    No one is tougher than Wes Welker. Edelman is talented, but he’s not durable enough to be considered Wes’ replacement.

  4. a83jd7a says:

    Cut ties with Welker? I love how everybody says it and then he leads the team receiving again this season. When Gronk goes down due to an injury next season, which seems very likely as he is showing fragility these past few months, Welker is the go to guy. Not Lloyd, not Hernandez.

    • Bobthebuilder says:

      Not saying I want to lose Welker, but Gronkowski is not injury prone.

      • AM says:

        I don’t think he’s “injury-prone” the way that Ras-I Dowling is (i.e., brittle), but he does play an incredibly physical position in an unbelievably aggressive way, which increases his injury risk. He’s going to get hit by safeties and linebackers on every play.

  5. mjp says:

    This an awful approach; Vollmer is arguably the best RT in the league this year and easily top-3. He’s missed few games due to the back, the injury actually makes it easier to keep him since other teams may be worried about moving him to LT and risking the injury, the Pats can offer him very good RT money and get it over with quickly, the risk is much reduced comparatively for the Pats since he’ll be paid as a RT. His balanced skill-set is invaluable, this team needs that type of player. Marcus Cannon looked awful at RT and it’s unwise to hope Dante will turn him into an all-pro.

    The best part of Talib was he allowed McCourty to play FS and Dennard to be a #2. His performance was not top of the market worthy, 3-4 years at 8-10mill per is the market for him and it would be a mistake to guarantee him any substantial amount of money. Draft a big, long CB who can actually see the field, there’s a ton of them this year, and get a veteran to compete for the spot at half of Talib’s cost.

    Marquise Cole was a pleasant surprise for a game or two but he clearly couldn’t cover Boldin, at all. Keep him instead of Arrington, maybe, but he’s not a physical DB in the slot and Arrington is.

    Pat Chung is 2x the player that Steven Gregory is, his injury history also makes him easier to sign and his coverage is not nearly as bad as Gregory’s. Nobody had a worse performance vs the Ravens than Gregory, he takes terrible angles in both phases of the game and is constantly lost in space (one good game doesn’t make up for a season’s worth of mediocre to sub-par play).

    Letting Welker walk is fine if he wants top dollar, he’s a better route runner than he gets credit for and is incredibly tough and durable so he will likely get top dollar from another team. 9M is too much for a slot WR who is obviously limited physically which is starting to show up more and more with the drops. Reconstruct him from the aggregate of Edelman and a free-agent like Amendola, maybe draft a WR.

    This team lacks playmakers on the perimeter, CB’s, WR’s and Edge-Rusher……we have lots of serviceable players but we need impact players.

    • AM says:

      Welker is limited in straight-line speed, perhaps, but disagree on the drops. Depending on source, he had between 9-15 (WaPo/PFF) drops this season, but that’s on 174 targets, which was good for fourth in the league (ESPN). That’s a drop rate between 5-9%, not even accounting for which balls were really uncatchable. For 118 receptions and more than 1300 yards, that’s a great performance.

      I think that Welker sometimes suffers from the same perception issue as Brady–they’re both so good that one of their average performances seems poor by comparison, even if most other players would be grateful for anything approaching that. And, of course, they make each other better, which just reinforces the issue.

  6. AM says:

    I look forward to the long back-and-forth of whether to keep Welker or let him go in these comments. I’m firmly in the “keep” camp, even at the $9-10 mil/yr range. They don’t come tougher.

    I think that writing off Vollmer so quickly is a mistake, though–quality OL are hard to find, and falling back on the “Scar is brilliant” strategy too often is just asking for trouble. (Even though Scar is indeed brilliant.) Keeping Brady upright must always be paramount, and as much as I like Cannon, he still seems better suited to the interior.

    Another interesting analysis for the NEPD folks would be which contracts could be dropped or restructured to provide more cap relief. I would think that Daniel Fells would be ripe for that

    • Russell Easterbrooks says:

      We will sign Vollmer, thats for sure. I think we offer Welker a deal, 2years 7 mil. per. If he wants to leave OK, play for the Raiders and make 10-12 mil a year.
      I think they put the “tag” on Talib and see what he can do for a full year.

      Players to cut:
      Trevor Scott

      • AM says:

        My concerns about Talib and Vollmer are the same: injury protection. Vollmer seemed to manage okay this season, although there were some instances where he was clearly playing through pain. Talib did so much for the secondary that it would be tough to let him go; I like the idea of franchising him.

        Respectfully disagree on Welker. If he leaves, someone is going to have to pick up the slack. Edelman hasn’t proven that he can stay healthy, and his good numbers this year might just have been a fluke. Amendola, Hartline, and the others on the market are good, but they aren’t Welker. It’s true that Welker gets more out of the Patriots system than he would most other teams, but the converse is true as well–because of skill, toughness, and familiarity, Welker is worth more to the team than most receivers would be. We’ve learned from Ochocinco/Johnson, Galloway, and others that not everyone can come in and handle either this offensive system or Brady’s temperament and zeal. I’d give him two years, $18 million, with guaranteed money for injury but not skill. Draft a faster, stronger receiver to boot, and go in with Welker, Lloyd, Edelman, Gronkowski, Hernandez, and the rookie WR as options in the passing game.

        I agree on most of the cuts. Arrington would be a nice keeper, but only for 3rd or 4th corner money. Stallworth could be interesting as a 5th wideout, at a veteran minimum deal, if there’s room. The one that gives me pause, oddly, is Larson. After seeing how the team struggles to run when faced with a physical defense, I wonder if using a fullback could help. Roster spots are tough to come by, though, so he’s probably a luxury they can’t afford.

        • Russell Easterbrooks says:

          Remember in the NFL change is good. Welkers pass routes are in every D game plan, there is alot of tape out there on every move he makes. Someone new running the same routes looks differant, and brings differant things to the game. When Hernandez runs out of the slot, it is very differant than Welker, running the same route. I agree he has value and would offer him a contract BUT 7mil a year tops. If welker leaves yes the O has to do somethings differant to take up the slack. This leaves the D quessing who and were.The O may play two WR , two TE, and no slot guy. I think the Patriots O is to perdictable.

      • kdog says:

        I’m concerned about the price tags on Vollmer and Talib. (In fact, I’m surprised that the anticipated prices are not front and center in this whole discussion, back to the OP.)

        I like what you say here about Welker – make him an offer and try to keep him, but let him follow the $$ somewhere else if he wants to max out. I was thinking 20/3, so we’re in the same ballpark.

        But Talib – a tag? That’s roughly $9MM for the transition tag, and $10.7MM for the franchise tag. I think that’s way over his value. I might offer him 10/2 or 6/1; that’s it. I don’t know what his market value is going to be given his baggage and his injury history. But if he goes, I would offer that same contract to Ed Reed and move DMac back to CB.

        Vollmer, OTOH, I might put a tag on. The franchise tag for OL is projected to be $8.6; that sounds reasonable to me for 1 year. Long term, I wouldn’t give him he big bucks. Too much injury risk, and in the end I can’t afford to pay top $ on both OTs.

        I agree with your other cuts, although I slightly prefer Arrington to Cole.

  7. acm says:

    supposedly better than either Mayo, Spikes, Hightower. Would mind the Pats drafting Khaseem Greene for that role. Was high on CJ Mosley but he went back to school.

    • mjp says:

      If Dion Jordan slides even remotely out of the top-12 the Pats should pull the trigger on a trade, don’t care if he takes a 2nd and a 4th next year, at 6’7” 250lbs the kid is an elite athlete who would have had 10+ sacks last year had he not been dropping into coverage half the time (on slot WR’s nonetheless). He’s silky smooth in space, just blankets receivers and has a great burst and closing speed in the open field and as a pass-rusher. Put him next to Chandler Jones who should slide over to a shaded DT position on passing downs and we have a dangerous pass-rushing duo.

      • acm says:

        don’t see that happen, not even close, tbh. Expect that 1st rounder to be traded down – too much good talent in the 2nd a dn3rd round this year. In the first, I’d say only Ansah sticks out with his potential and is worth trading up but just don’t think the conditions for trading up are there this year.

        • Russell Easterbrooks says:

          I agree , a GREAT amount of talent for the Patriots in the 2d, 3d, 4th rounds this year. So many in fact we could use extra 3d’s and 4th’s !!

        • mjp says:

          I know Tampa Bay wants to trade back and follow any slide of Johnathan Banks, risky for them, could just take him but I’m willing to bet a couple of teams will want to trade back.

          Still hard to pull off but Dion Jordan is well worth it, 2 birds with 1 stone for this Pats D.

  8. Nick says:

    Is Fletcher a good coverage LB? The pats could def. use one of those

    • Russell Easterbrooks says:

      Yes Fletcher is a good cover LB. I’m projecting S/LB DeVante Holloman, 6’2″ 230+ runs a 4.64 40, as a 3d-4th pick to play sub-packages at SS as well as at LB, to start at least.

      • kdog says:

        I haven’t seen this guy, but I love the idea. We should add a couple of such players, IMHO, to replace White and Kouts on the roster. If one of them develops into our starting SS, all the better.

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