Available Free Agents That Could Still Impact the 2012 New England Patriots

Kyle CormierContributor IIIJuly 13, 2012

Available Free Agents That Could Still Impact the 2012 New England Patriots

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    Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots have assembled a team this offseason that, on paper, looks to be much improved, specifically at the receiver position and on defense. 

    One thing to remember though is that you can never have too much competition or talent. 

    That being said, there are still pieces that could be added to the puzzle, as some veteran free agents with ability are still just sitting at home waiting for a call.

    Here is a look at a few player that the Patriots should consider bringing in for training camp.

Ernie Sims, Linebacker

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    Ernie Sims was a tremendous talent out of Florida State that the Detroit Lions saw fit to take with the 9th overall selection in the 2006 NFL Draft.

    Over the next three seasons he started all 48 of the team’s regular season games and recorded over 100 tackles in each of them. 

    What he did not do is make the kind of plays the team thought they would be getting with a player in the top-10 of the draft. For that reason, he has bounced around, playing for three teams in three years now. 

    At just 29 years old though, there is no reason not to kick the tires on a player who has as much talent as Sims.

    At worst, he would compete with players like former-Lion Bobby Carpenter and special teamer Tracy White for a job as a backup outside linebacker. 

    Sims is an intriguing player, one I think neither the league nor the Patriots should give up on just yet.

Braylon Edwards, Wide Receiver

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    There is no better free agent wide receiver available at this time than Braylon Edwards.

    At 29, he should still have productive seasons ahead of him in this league, despite being an afterthought last season in San Francisco and being waived last December. 

    Still in his twenties, there is no reason to believe that he could not be the player who may have been the best receiver in football in 2007, if not for Randy Moss’s record-breaking performance. That talent is still in there somewhere; he just needs to be in the right situation for it to emerge once again.

    He has had off-the-field issues with a DUI in 2010 and other legal troubles before that, but he is not a player that seems like he would be a huge problem in the New England locker room.

    Though the Patriots already have an impressive group of receivers, Edwards could certainly contend with Jabar Gaffney for the team’s number three option. 

    He is certainly worth a long, hard look.

Jim Leonhard, Safety

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    Like Edwards, Jim Leonhard is a former-Jet many fans are already acquainted with.

    Though he has never been an outstanding player, you could do a lot worse than having a player like Leonhard as a second-unit safety.

    Though he is not a prime talent, he could be viewed as a veteran leader in what is a very young secondary in New England. He also brings some versatility and an ability to fill in as a punt returner, should the Patriots need someone to take that role in the event of an injury to Julian Edelman. 

    Each of the last two seasons, he ended up on injured reserve in December. As a result, his durability is certainly a concern at this point. 

    With the number of defensive backs the team already has on the roster, it may take an injury during camp for Leonhard to get an invite.

    As much as people may hate to think it, injuries are a certainty of the game.

    In the event of one of their safeties going down, Jim Leonhard should be the first safety on the Patriots call list.

Darron Thomas, Quarterback

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    Bill Belichick loves his versatile players, and a player like Darron Thomas coming out of Chip Kelly’s Oregon offense is about as versatile as they come.

    The undrafted Thomas is a classic dual-threat quarterback, who is just as comfortable running as he is throwing. 

    A key to note is that the Patriots are currently carrying only three quarterbacks with Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett. With each of these three likely to make the roster, it would be smart to bring in a developmental QB like Thomas who could take come of the extra reps in training camp, where there are many passes to go around practice after practice. 

    Also, with long-whispered talks that one of the Patriots' backup quarterbacks could be dealt (though I do not buy them), having a third-option—even if he is only a practice squad player— would be valuable to have around.

    If nothing else, Thomas could possibly stick around on the practice squad and help the team prepare for mobile quarterbacks they may face throughout the season—a role Julian Edelman has frequented on the scout team in the past.