By: Derek Havens
Now that the NFL lockout has finally ended, this is a great time to evaluate the Patriots current roster. Now that the Pats brought in talent from the draft, it could alter their decision to re-sign some of their expiring veterans. The Patriots made re-signing their own veterans priority one last off-season and I feel they should do the same this season. The following is a list of the 2010 New England Patriots free agents heading into the off – season. Here is my thoughts on each players stance with the team moving forward:
CB Kyle Arrington – After Kyle Arrington played mainly special teams in his rookie season, he stepped up to play starting corner across from Devin McCourty since week 3. I certainly expect this young man to be back on a multi-year deal and play in the slot with Leigh Bodden returning from injury next season regardless of the Ras I – Dowling selection.
S Josh Barrett – The veteran safety, claimed off the Denver Broncos waiver wire during the season, was immediately placed on IR after signing with the team. I feel Belichick wants to see Barrett in camp for his league renown special teams skills, but wouldn’t necessarily expect a long term commitment with the team.
RB Kevin Faulk – After a devastating knee injury cut Kevin Faulk’s 13th season with the Patriots short, the 34 year old has been undergoing rehab trying to make a comeback for 2011. It has been understood that if Kevin wants to return next year he can, but at what point can the Patriots not hold a roster spot for the veteran?
K Shayne Graham – Graham stepped up in Stephen Gostkowski’s absence to deliver a solid effort the final half of the season. Even though Graham did not miss a field goal during his Patriots tenure, there is only one roster spot available for the kicker. I would be surprised if Graham was not in camp with the patriots just in case Gostkowski is not ready to return in 2011.
RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis – Heading into the season, BenJarvus Green-Ellis appeared to be at the bottom of the Patriots roster. Months later, he eclipsed the 1000-yard mark for the first time in his career and scored 13 touchdowns. In almost any CBA scenario, he will end up a restricted free agent, which gives the Patriots an edge to re-sign him. While he has been a near perfect fit in New England, he might not be the future feature back. Cal running back Shane Vereen may be taking more of the spotlight than people realize and don’t count out LSU tailback Stevan Ridley, who Belichick loves. The teams backfield could be very dynamic when the seasons begins.
OL Matt Light – At first glance, I expected the Patriots will not re-sign Matt Light and instead utilize Colorado LT Nate Solder at 17 overall in the NFL Draft. Even though he had one of his best seasons, Light will be turning 33 next season and it is hard to imagine his return to the team. Although Solder could start immediately, he could learn a lot from the pro bowl veteran Light. Second year tackle Sebastian Vollmer, who can play either position, will stay at the right tackle position for the next season. This by far is the toughest decision to make but I think the team will not re-sign Light because he will be looking for more money.
OL Logan Mankins – Mankins return to the Patriots offensive line was flawless, even after a holdout at the early stages of the season. He continues to be one of the top guards in the league and will be paid as so in the coming months. Hopefully, for Patriots nation, he will remain a Patriot for years to come. With the offensive line aging and in need of a makeover, Mankins is one of the few bright spots this team has left in that unit. I have a feeling both Mr. Kraft and Mankins will hammer out a new contract, but with these situations, you just never know.
S Brandon McGowan – McGowan missed the whole season with a torn pectoral muscle after a solid season in 2009. Unfortunately for him, the Patriots have several players at the safety position. Brandon Meriweather, Patrick Chung, Jarrad page, James Sanders, and serjio Brown all got reps throughout the season. It will be interesting if the Pats bring him back but a veteran minimum contract and a training camp appearance is certainly not out of the question.
RB Sammy Morris – The 34 year old contributed sparingly in 2010 and is almost a lock he will not be back with the patriots next season. Between his age, ability, and room on the roster, I do not see room for him in 2011. The only real loss the Patriots would lose in Morris’ absence is his ability to play both the full back and tailback position.However, I feel Stevan Ridley might be able to fill that role.
OL Quinn Ojinnaka – After trading a 7th round pick for Ojinnaka earlier in the season, the veteran added quality depth for the Pats all season. Ojinnaka is so valuable as a back up because of his versatility. He can play all five offensive line positions and has game experience in all of them. I fully expect him to be back with the Patriots next year.
S Jarrad Page – After a contract dispute forced his departure in Kansas City, Page suffered a few injuries in the first few weeks. After he was healthy, he rotated in the defensive backfield and also contributed on special teams. I think he could be back with the team but part of me is curious to see if he asks for more money than he is worth.
RB Fred Taylor – Fred Taylor tried to shed the “fragile Fred” nickname this season but the veteran had no such luck. He was hampered throughout the year with nagging injuries and when he was healthy enough to play, he had lost his job to BenJarvis Green-Ellis. Taylor talked several times about retirement this season, many of those in tears with obvious frustration and sadness in his facial expression. I expect the 34 year old not to return and possibly sign with the Jaguars to retire where his great career began.
DL Gerard Warren – Gerard Warren had a great start to the season and slowly regressed as the year went along. Never the less, I thought he did a great job replacing the injured Ty Warren for the seasons entirety. I certainly expect the Patriots to re-sign the veteran DE to help add depth and experience along the defensive front.
LB Tracy White – In early September the Eagles traded White to the Patriots for an undisclosed late round pick in the 2012 NFL draft. White played in all 16 games, finishing second on the team with 18 special teams tackles. I expect White to return with the team next season and be big part of the on special teams next season.
The Patriots have once again put themselves in a position to reload on the fly. Bill Belichick and the brain trust have certainly positioned themselves masterfully. Another strong off – season should continue building this teams foundation. If all goes well, the Patriots could be a championship team in the near future.
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