It's fun to imagine big-name guys like Ed Reed or Mike Wallace joining the New England Patriots this offseason, but there are a handful of lesser-known free agents out there who could help make the team better in 2013.
Some are on bad teams and don't get the recognition they deserve, while others have fallen victim to the injury bug. Some just aren't a good fit where they are now, despite having talent.
Whatever the case may be, there are quality players out there that the Patriots don't have to break the bank for.
Here's a look at five under-the-radar free agents the Patriots should consider this offseason.
Measurables: 6'6'', 311 lbs
There's been some buzz around Patriot Nation about a potential Richard Seymour-New England reunion, but what about the Oakland Raiders' other gigantic free-agent defensive tackle?
The 27-year-old Desmond Bryant filled in for Seymour after being placed on injured reserve in Week 8 and turned some heads by putting up four sacks and providing a good interior pass rush.
Bryant would be a nice addition to the Patriots defensive line, and as Adam Fox of PatsPulpit.com points out, he could come cheap:
Because of the relatively small sample size (just 18 career games started), Bryant could be had inexpensively. With PFF grading him as the best defensive tackle in free agency, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better deal in the market on a strictly dollars-to-production ratio.
Why They Should Consider Him: The Patriots need an interior pass rush, and Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick aren't getting the job done. Even with the recent addition of CFL star Armond Armstead, they could still use another athletic defensive tackle with a lot of upside.
Measurables: 5'10'', 198 lbs
Even though the Patriots are reportedly in talks with their in-house free agent Kyle Arrington (per Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald), Mike Jenkins might be a better place to invest their money.
Arrington played well in the slot, but struggled mightily when asked to play on the outside.
Jenkins plays well in the slot and on the outside and is an all-around more talented defensive back.
If the Patriots could reach a reasonable deal with Jenkins—which should be possible given some recent injuries—he could really help the team.
Why They Should Consider Him: The Patriots need more talent in their defensive backfield, especially if cornerback Aqib Talib isn't re-signed. Jenkins is a former Pro Bowler with a lot of experience and is still relatively young at 27 years old. If he comes cheap, why not bring him aboard?
Measurables: 6'2'', 217 lbs
The Patriots need a large safety who isn't afraid to lay the wood and has good coverage skills.
Guess what Kenny Phillips can do?
All of the above.
As noted by Jesse Bartolis at BigBlueView.com, Kenny Phillips can make a big difference for a defense:
The Giants...gave up an average of 16.85 points per game...112.85 yards rushing per game and 226.7 yards passing per game...in games that Phillips played...In games in which Phillips did not play the Giants gave up 417.11 yards per game, 25.1 points per game, 141.89 yards rushing per game, and 275.8 yards passing per game.
Phillips missed nine games last year due to a knee injury, but between 2010 and 2011, he missed only one.
His recent injury could bring his price down a bit, though, likely making his services more appealing to the Pats.
Why They Should Consider Him: The Patriots need a physical safety to complement the rangy play of Devin McCourty. Maybe that guy is former second-round pick Tavon Wilson or maybe they target a safety in the draft, but if Phillips is obtainable, the Pats should reach out and grab him.
Measurables: 5'11'', 200 lbs
Even if Wes Welker decides to re-sign, the Pats still need a speedy wide receiver who can consistently create separation on the outside.
Henderson doesn't offer much length at 5'11'', but he has undeniable speed and a thick frame at 200 lbs.
He's fallen a bit out of favor over the years in New Orleans, essentially serving as a situational deep threat, but that is exactly what the Patriots need.
Considering he's never reached 1,000 yards receiving and will turn 31 this March, he shouldn't be asking for much dough.
Why They Should Consider Him: He's fast and should be cheap. 'Nough said.
Measurables: 6'0'', 190 lbs
If the Patriots can't get Aqib Talib to stick around, Greg Toler is the next guy they should call.
Pete Prisco of CBSSports highlights Toler as the top high-value free agent this offseason, suggesting that he's only going to get better:
[Toler is] is a capable man-cover player who is also a willing tackler. [He is] more than capable of staying with good receivers. He can play press-man, off-man and he seems comfortable playing zone...For a team looking for a 28-year-old corner who would seem to have his best football in front of him, Toler would make a ton of sense.
Toler is a hard-worker who started in semi-pro football and was eventually drafted in the fourth round by Arizona out of a miniature Division II school in Lawrenceville, Va. called St. Paul's.
He played well in a rotational role as a rookie in 2009 and emerged as a starter in 2010. He missed all of 2011 with a torn ACL but eventually came back strong in 2012.
Why They Should Consider Him: With Talib and Alfonzo Dennard's (who may be facing jail time per Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald) futures uncertain, the Patriots may be in dire need of a quality cornerback soon enough.
Toler seems to be very coachable given his consistent improvement each year, and if you watch the video above, you'll find that he has a professional approach to the game—both qualities that Bill Belichick covets in his players.