By: Derek Havens
Now that the NFL regular season has ended, this is a great time to evaluate the Patriots current roster.
New England has made re-signing their own veterans a priority over the last few years and I feel they should do the same this season. The following is a list of the Patriots free agents heading into the offseason. Here are my thoughts on each player’s stance with the team moving forward:
Aqib Talib, CB — The Pro Bowl cornerback had a strong season, but was injured in the AFC Championship game for a second year in a row. It’s clear he’s a valuable asset for the Patriots defense, but at what cost? He’s been a good locker room personality and kept himself out of trouble since being acquired, but has struggled with injuries.
Aqib Talib’s presence in the Patriots secondary is much needed, but it will likely come at a high cost.
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The Pats should look to re-sign him, as his presence is surely needed in the secondary, but breaking the bank for him comes with some risk given his up-and-down injury history. The franchise tag is an option, but priced at a hefty 10.4 million.
Julian Edelman, WR — Some may argue this is the most necessary re-signing the Patriots need to make this offseason. Edelman is coming off a tremendous season, hauling in 105 catches for 1,056 yards and six touchdowns. He was the most consistent player on offense all season.
It makes sense for both sides to get a deal done, but the contract will be a tough negotiation. He has struggled staying healthy in past seasons, but his importance to the offense this year is inarguable. Expect Edelman to stay, but if he were to leave, it would leave the offense with a lot of holes to fill in the coming months.
LeGarrette Blount, RB — The veteran tailback made a late season surge and had some terrific performances, carrying the team into the playoffs. While Blount was solid, he did have a slow start and he may receive more on the open market than his real value.
With Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen locked down for another season, it may be wise to see how free agency plays out. If Blount gets the same type of deal former running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis received from Cincinnati — 3 years, 9 million — it won’t be worth the investment.
Ryan Wendell, OL — Wendell provided some stability to the offensive line, playing every snap in the 2013 season. He was a serviceable lineman, but was over-powered several times. The Patriots could look to upgrade, but it would not be surprising to see Wendell back with the team next year.
Brandon Spikes, LB — After an odd ending to the season, with the team placing him on Injured-Reserve, it’s doubtful Spikes returns to the Patriots. The bruising linebacker made an impact on the defense, providing a toughness and attitude that was much needed during his stint with the team.
Rookie linebacker Jamie Collins will most likely take over for Spikes as the starter for 2014 and New England may explore bringing in a veteran for a reserve role.
Michael Hoomanawanui, TE — “Hooman” had to restructure his contract last year as a restricted-free agent in order to return for 2013. He finished the season with 12 catches for 136 yards and a touchdown. Hoomanawanui was just average run blocking and it would not be a surprise to see him land on a new team as they may look to upgrade.
Matthew Mulligan, TE — The veteran tight end stepped in this year and provided the offense with a solid backup to Rob Gronkowski. While he was not an asset as a receiver, he was more than solid run blocking. Mulligan could find himself in a similar role next year, but as stated with Hoomanawanui, the team will most likely look to upgrade at the position.
The Patriots offense could be left scrambling for answers if Julian Edelman leaves in free agency.
(USA TODAY Images)
Dane Fletcher, LB — The 27-year-old linebacker was in a reserve roll in 2013. Fletcher may be looking for a greater opportunity with a new team, but the Patriots will most likely offer him a contract to fulfill the same duty next season. New England should have their starting linebacker corps intact with Jerod Mayo, Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins.
Austin Collie, WR — Collie’s concussion history made it difficult to find a job, but he found a role for the Patriots and performed well. While he had some big catches in key moments, it’s hard to see a spot on the roster if the team re-signs Julian Edelman.
Danny Aiken, LS — Aiken is New England’s only restricted-free agent this offseason. As the team’s long snapper, Aiken performed well, but had a few mishaps along the way. Because he has no other real value at another position, expect the team to look to upgrade or at least bring in competition for training camp.
Will Svitek, OL — The tackle was seen as a valuable commodity when he signed last season, but when he was thrown into action this year he was mediocre at best. Marcus Cannon stepped in admirably and with Sebastian Vollmer coming back next season, Svitek will most likely be looking for work over the offseason.
Andre Carter, DE — After Carter joined the team in week eight, he was thrown right into the mix. He registered two sacks, but was held in check more often than not. As much as the 12-year veteran was well received by the team and fans, look for the Patriots to turn the roll over to Michael Buchanan next season.
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