Every year, NFL teams are forced to make the difficult decision to cut various top-tier players due to a lack of room under the salary cap.
After all, it's worked before. Consider the move to bring in ex-Chargers safety Rodney Harrison for the 2003 season. After missing the playoffs in 2002, coach Bill Belichick swapped Lawyer Milloy for Harrison, and the move worked for both Harrison and the Patriots. New England jumped from 23rd in the league in yards allowed per game to seventh, while Harrison finally got his Super Bowl ring while posting 140 tackles.
This list of released players and potential cap casualties is centered mostly on the defense, with one notable offensive exception. Though health is a concern with all veteran players, these five would still serve a useful purpose in Patriot blue and silver.
A cap casualty after transitioning to safety and suffering a broken collarbone in his seventh year in Green Bay, there's no doubt that Woodson would still be a defensive upgrade for the Patriots.
Signing him as a safety and potential nickelback would allow Devin McCourty to switch back to corner and provide more depth if Patrick Chung was to suffer another injury.
This homecoming might not happen for two reasons: first, because of how hurt Seymour was when the Patriots initially traded him to Oakland in 2009. Second, because the Raiders haven't voided his contract yet.
But if it happens, bringing Seymour in for a tryout could certainly help rejuvenate his career, which has been on a slide since 2009.
A defensive end who played outside linebacker for the Indianapolis Colts last year, Freeney won't be re-signed after posting career lows of only 12 tackles and five sacks. But it wasn't that long ago that he was good for 10 or more sacks per season.
Freeney could spell fellow Syracuse alum Chandler Jones at one defensive end position, or move into the other position and allow Rob Ninkovich back to linebacker.
There's only one offensive player worth pursuing on the potential cap casualty list, and that's Boldin. After watching him perform impeccably in the Baltimore Ravens' Super Bowl run, the Patriots would be wise to pursue him if he becomes a cap casualty in Baltimore, especially if Wes Welker is let go.
Though Boldin has claimed that he will retire if released from his contract, New England would provide him with a chance to contend for more championships while providing Tom Brady with his best downfield wide receiver option since Randy Moss.
Brady to Boldin would be nice, but it's another Raven who would be the best fit in New England. This would be the Patriots' modern answer to the Harrison move a decade ago—bringing in an aging safety with hopes of rejuvenating his career.
Speculation has been swirling, partially because Reed said he would love to play for Bill Belichick (Reed later cleared up any confusion, noting his first choice next season is Baltimore). He would form a safety rotation with Patrick Chung and Steve Gregory, enabling Devin McCourty to share time with Fonzie Dennard, Kyle Arrington and (hopefully) Aqib Talib at cornerback.
While Seymour, Freeney, and Boldin would all be nice additions, they wouldn't fill New England's biggest needs. When the Patriots lost to the Ravens in the AFC Championship Game, part of the reason was because Joe Flacco was able to stretch the secondary more and more as the game went on. That was partially because Aqib Talib went down with an injury early in the game, eliminating one of the team's biggest defensive backs.
With over $18 million in cap space to work with and rookie contracts now limited, the Patriots could afford to bring in one or two of these players. The wildest scenario would be to go for a short-term upgrade by chasing both Reed and Woodson and betting on their health to hold out for a year or two, then re-signing Talib after putting faith in his work ethic.
The resulting secondary—Talib and McCourty at the corners, Reed and Chung at safety and Woodson, Arrington and Dennard providing depth—would, if healthy, strike fear in the hearts of opponents. With money to play with and the possibility of signing the veterans to short-term deals, it might be the move to propel the Patriots back to the top of the league.
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