Setting Odds the Patriots Sign These 2013 NFL Free Agents
While you can always count on Bill Belichick to sign a collection of low-risk veterans to team-friendly deals, there are a number of higher-profile free agents who could be targeted.
With the eighth-most free cap space in the NFL, the Patriots should have some freedom to pursue any free agent they like.
Let's break down the odds for six of the most popular players Patriots fans might like to see come to New England.
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Goldson's physical play would've been a welcome addition to the 2012 Patriots, and in retrospect they might've wanted to offer Steve Gregory's three-year, $8.8 million contract to Goldson instead. But perhaps there's still time to amend that mistake by making Goldson a more competitive offer this time.
If the Patriots pursue multiple safeties this offseason it will be clear that Steve Gregory's in for a dogfight at training camp.
The need for a safety isn't as overwhelming as the need for defensive tackles, cornerbacks and wide receivers, but there's no question a presence like Goldson's is something the defense lacks.
Chance of being a Patriot: 10 percent
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Ed Reed set off a small firestorm in New England during Super Bowl week when he had this to say about Bill Belichick and the Pats:
“I could definitely play for coach Belichick. He is a great coach. I’m sure he can help me to expand my football knowledge even more as a player and as a coach, so if I’m ever able to be around him, just like I was at the Pro Bowl, it’s huge.
“It’s the reason why I wear my sweater cut off a little bit. He’s the first guy I saw like, ‘That’s cool.’ You know, that’s cool. He cuts those sweater sleeves, and he’ll be comfortable.”
Reed would later clarify the remarks, saying it probably wouldn't happen, but it was still enough to give Patriots fans merry visions of the man who Bill Belichick called the best free safety of all time patrolling the Patriots secondary.
It also wouldn't hurt that it came at the expense of the Ravens.
Belichick's love for Reed is well-documented, and despite Reed's advanced age he would instantly step into a starting safety spot next to Devin McCourty and also bring a physical presence that the Pats could use more of.
You can never rule out Belichick's desire to coach special players. His history with Junior Seau, Doug Flutie and John Lynch are clear examples of why.
However, the odds are long that Reed gets away from Baltimore.
If he somehow does, expect the Pats to be in the mix on day one.
Odds of being a Patriot: 25 percent
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If there was one free agent in the entire NFL who would make the biggest impact for the Patriots, it would be Henry Melton.
He's arguably the best free agent on the entire market and certainly wouldn't be cheap, but his pass-rush skills and ability on the interior of the line would instantly make the entire Patriots defense better.
At 26, Melton is just entering his prime. He had eight sacks in 2012 and was consistently a force along the Bears' defensive line.
Picking him up would be somewhat of a schematic departure for the Patriots, but it's one they badly need to make. Playing two nose tackle-types in the heart of their defense has cost them against the pass on early downs.
Melton would be the perfect complement to Vince Wilfork and would give the Patriots an interior presence they have lacked for the last two seasons.
It's probably the longest shot of anyone, but Patriots fans can dream.
Odd of being a Patriot: 33 percent
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If Brian Hartline could put up over 1,000 yards with rookie Ryan Tannehill throwing him the ball, imagine what he could do with Tom Brady.
Hartline did most of his damage on the right side of the field in 2012, but he was a consistent threat the entire season. This included 12 catches for 253 yards and a touchdown against the Cardinals.
The 26-year-old has given the Patriots problems when they've played him. In two games this year against New England he had 10 catches for 153 yards.
It wouldn't be the first time the Patriots poached the Dolphins' best receiver, and with Hartline still ascending, he could be a solid midrange veteran pickup.
Odds of becoming a Patriot: 50 percent
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Desmond Bryant had a breakout year after filling in for Richard Seymour and actually outplaying him.
There would be something ironic about the Patriots then swooping in and stealing Bryant from the Raiders, and it certainly wouldn't be the first time the Pats went on a cherry pick in Oakland.
Bryant is 6'5" and 280 pounds and a little big for a defensive tackle, but that's where he played with the Raiders. He could probably also play defensive end for the Patriots as well, giving Bill Belichick another versatile freak to slide up and down his defensive line.
Bryant only got better as the season went along in 2012, and really elevated his pass-rush skills in the last seven games of the season.
He also went to Harvard, so that speaks to his intelligence and familiarity with Boston. When you add it all up it seems like Bryant might be too tempting for the Patriots to pass up this offseason.
Chance of being a Patriot: 75 percent
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Danny Amendola's injury history should certainly make him affordable, and if Wes Welker departs, Amendola could be a safe investment to potentially replace him.
Not to say that Amendola is as good as Welker, but he has the same skill set and has experience with Josh McDaniels' system.
Amendola played just 12 games combined the last two seasons, but the tempting thing about him is 2009 and 2010, when he played in a combined 30 games and had 128 catches.
Injuries do not usually scare Bill Belichick away from players; if anything, Bryant's injuries could make the Patriots more likely to take a chance on him. If Bryant stays healthy he could really blossom with Brady.
The Pats don't often hit on wide receivers, but when they do it's veteran free agents like Wes Welker, Randy Moss, Jabar Gaffney and yes, even Brandon Lloyd.
The upside outweighs the injury risk, especially if the Pats have to replace Welker.
Regardless of how much he is or isn't like Welker, he's a slot receiver with experience in the system. That's a good investment.
Chance of being a Patriot: 99 percent