The New England Patriots enter the 2012 season with a great amount of depth across the board. Other than perhaps outside linebacker/defensive end, the Patriots' roster is loaded with quality depth at nearly every spot.
Since the Patriot roster does possess this type of depth, some players who may be starters for other franchises are stuck in reserve roles in Foxboro. Here are five players who surely would have an opportunity to start with some other teams across the National Football League.
The former Super Bowl XXXIX Most Valuable Player, Deion Branch, faces an uphill battle for playing time with a loaded receiving corps in New England.
However, when you look at some rosters across the league, the aging Branch would have a decent shot at being a sure-fire starter on a number of teams.
When you look at him on the field it becomes evident he is not the difference-maker he once was in a Patriots uniform. With 705 yards and five touchdowns on 51 receptions last year though, it is clear Branch still has something left in the tank.
He was a starter on one of the best offenses in football a year ago, and given the right circumstances, he could be a productive starter still.
He had the chance to go to another team this offseason, but elected to stay where he has Tom Brady and the comfort of the New England system.
Julian Edelman is a player who I believe could be a real playmaker with another team if given a chance as a starter.
All-Pro Wes Welker rightfully starts over him in New England, but Edelman possesses more speed and explosiveness than Welker—explosiveness he has shown on punt returns, taking one to the house in each of the previous two seasons.
Edelman has filled in for Welker previously when Welker missed time in Edelman’s 2009 rookie season. In fact, in the Patriots' 2009 Wild Card loss to the Baltimore Ravens, Edelman recorded a franchise postseason-tying performance with two receiving touchdowns.
Edelman is an unrestricted free agent after this season; if New England allows him to see what is out there, he just may get the opportunity to prove me right.
Dan Connolly is the type of offensive lineman Bill Belichick flat-out loves. Connolly is a versatile player who can be lined up on all three interior spots in the ilk of former Patriot Russ Hochstein.
Last season when former Pro Bowl center Dan Koppen landed on season-ending injured reserve, Connolly did not an admirable job of filling in without making it look like he was much of a drop-off.
Though he is not currently projected to be a starter, Belichick deemed him important enough to give over $9 million over three years, money some starting interior lineman play for. With uncertainty facing Brian Waters' and Logan Mankins' status this season, Connolly may get a chance once again to prove his worth as a starter in New England.
Connolly could have left this offseason to start elsewhere, but instead chose to remain Bill Belichick go-to man off the bench. He still may have a fighting chance to unseat Dan Koppen as the team’s center, but that seems unlikely at this point.
Robert Gallery is about as highly touted offensive lineman coming out of college in recent memory. He lasted just two picks in the 2004 NFL draft when the Oakland Raiders selected him as a seemingly “can’t-miss” prospect at left tackle.
Gallery did not live up to that hype in Oakland and was eventually moved over to play guard. As a guard Gallery has performed at a much higher level.
After a season in Seattle, Gallery signed with the New England Patriots despite their depth along the offensive line. In an interview on PFW in Progress, Gallery made it clear he has had intentions of playing in New England for a while, and was actually surprised it took him this long to get there.
He seems unlikely to earn a starting role with New England this season right now, but there are certainly teams who could benefit from having the talented services of a player like Gallery on the inside of their offensive line.
Kyle Arrington projects to be a backup in name only. Arrington will likely serve as the team’s nickelback and will likely start games in that role. Semantically though, he looks to be the backup to Devin McCourty and Ras-I Dowling at this point.
As the NFL’s co-leader in interceptions with seven a season ago, Arrington has some ball skills, but that is not what makes him worthy of being a starting corner.
Nothing has ever been given to Arrington; he has started the bulk of games over the past two seasons in New England despite beginning each season on the bench. Through hard work and consistent, improving coverage skills, Arrington has made Belichick hesitant to take him off the field.
So much so that Arrington actually played the most snaps of any New England defender last year, according to Tom E. Curran of Comcast Sportsnet New England.
Arrington may play the nickel in New England, but there are absolutely teams that could benefit utilizing Kyle Arrington on a full-time basis.