5 Defensive Free Agents the New England Patriots Would Be Crazy to Pass on

Oliver Thomas@OliverBThomasContributor IMarch 14, 2012

5 Defensive Free Agents the New England Patriots Would Be Crazy to Pass on

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    This offseason, the New England Patriots will look to upgrade their 31st ranked defense of 2011.

    The question is, will this defensive unit be fixed through free agency or through the draft? Established players like Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo have done all they can to force three-and-outs. But will a few additions be enough to make the Patriots' defense a threat to NFL offenses?

    The positions in need of a boost are defensive end, outside linebacker, safety and cornerback. If the Pats want to return to the Super Bowl in February of 2013, defense must become priority No. 1. 

    The only certainty at this point is the salary cap number—the Pats currently have $16.2 million open in cap space for next season.

    With that extra cash, director of player personnel Nick Caserio and head coach Bill Belichick can entertain the idea of adding some special talent on D.

    If New England decides to go on a shopping spree, here are five players the team should take a chance on.

LaRon Landry, Strong Safety, Age 27

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    LaRon Landry is a hard-hitting safety. However, he's been limited to just 17 games over the last two campaigns. Because of his durability issues, the Patriots could get the former LSU Tiger for cheap.

    If anything is an indication of Landry's work ethic, take a look his effort to stay in peak physical condition. Despite his injury woes, this strong safety still makes time to work out at an optimal level.

    Now, it makes sense for New England to draft a safety among the likes of Mark Barron, Harrison Smith, George Iloka or Markelle Martin. Yet, signing Landry seems to be a logical choice for the immediate future and would give a rookie time to develop.

    With all due respect to James Ihedigbo, Sergio Brown and Josh Barrett, LaRon Landry is a better option at safety alongside Patrick Chung.

    Will Landry ever live up to being the sixth selection in the 2007 NFL draft? Probably not. But hey, he's a much better player than the 2007 class' first overall pick JaMarcus Russell.

Brandon Carr, Cornerback, Age 26

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    Lining up across the field from the highly-touted Brandon Flowers didn't keep "the other Brandon" from blossoming.

    Brandon Carr has started every game at corner for the Kansas City Chiefs since entering the league as a fifth-round pick in 2008. The Grand Valley State product has eight career interceptions and can play physical man-to-man defense on his receiver.

    As far as the Patriots are concerned, cornerback is a position where they need to become more gritty. That tough demeanor is exactly what Carr brings to the table. He's not flashy or lightning fast, but he knows how to defend the pass.

    The Patriots had a role reversal at corner last season. The players who were expected to impress actually regressed. Devin McCourty had a rough second season while rookie Ras-I Dowling landed on injured reserve.

    Then a couple guys nobody thought would have an impact decided to make their names known. Two former undrafted free agents broke out. Kyle Arrington snagged a league-leading seven picks. And Sterling Moore saved the Patriots' season with his play on the Baltimore Ravens' Lee Evans in the AFC Championship Game.

    Carr has the makeup of a Patriot. He flies under the radar and does the dirty work—something Belichick admires. If New England has a desire to solidify their cornerback group, the signing of Brandon Carr would definitely do the trick.

Kamerion Wimbley, Outside Linebacker, Age 28

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    Kamerion Wimbley could blend nicely in New England.

    The former Florida State Seminole knows how to blitz the quarterback. In six seasons, Wimbley has recorded 42.5 sacks. The Patriots are in need of an outside pass-rushing presence. If the Pats return to the 3-4 defense, then an outside linebacker must step up. Could that man be Wimbley?

    According to San Francisco Gate, Wimbley is set to be cut by the Oakland Raiders as he is owed $43.5 million over the next four years.

    The Patriots should take a flier on him. The 6'4", 255-pound linebacker has the flexibility to play in a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme, and Belichick loves versatility.

    CSN New England's Tom Curran reports that the Patriots will not pursue the OLB, but sometimes, teams fake left and go right.

    Deception is the name of the game. Case in point, quarterback Tom Brady was listed as probable on the team's injury report for several seasons.

    Put the Pats' shiftiness aside, and ask yourselves this:

    Why wouldn't New England consider adding Wimbley?

Mario Williams, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, Age 27

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    Ah, Mario Williams...

    Now if this 6'6", 283-pounder came to New England, he would be an absolute difference maker.

    The former No. 1 draft pick only played in five games last season before being placed on injured reserve. But that won't stop teams from showing him the money.

    Unfortunately for the Pats, Williams' cost may be more than they're willing to spend.

    Williams has amassed 53 sacks in six professional seasons with the Houston Texans. He helped turn a putrid defense into a well-oiled machine. One can only imagine what he'd do for the Patriots.

    Now in a 3-4 scheme, Williams would become an outside linebacker. His speed and size make him a versatile athlete, and undoubtedly, a fearsome sack artist attacking off the edge.

Andre Carter, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, Age 32

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    Andre Carter is 32 years old and recovering from a torn quadriceps tendon. Nevertheless, this man can rumble.

    Signing the former Cal Bear to a base salary of $1.75 million last season proved to be a brilliant acquisition.

    Carter's high motor was revving all season en route to his first Pro Bowl selection. Carter looked like a spring chicken out there in 2011. No. 93 totaled 10 sacks and even tied a Patriots record for most sacks in a single game with four against the New York Jets.

    If Andre Carter is half the man he was last season, he should be back in 2012. Even if the Patriots transition to a 3-4 defensive front, Carter has the capability of playing outside linebacker. Not to mention, his size strikes resemblance to former Patriot great Willie McGinest.

    Regardless of the role, Andre Carter is the type of player who the Patriots must have in their locker room.