Patriots Free-Agency Tracker: Updated Signings, Rumors & Grades

Erik FrenzSenior Writer IMarch 12, 2013

Patriots Free-Agency Tracker: Updated Signings, Rumors & Grades

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    The free-agency frenzy is upon us.

    With over $25 million in salary cap space entering free agency (according to OverTheCap.com), the New England Patriots were in good position to improve their roster. 

    It took them awhile to start making moves, but after a few key players parted ways, they've finally shown up on the radar.

    Consider this your one-stop shop for all the Patriots rumors, reports, additions and subtractions. We'll also be keeping score with grades for each move.

Latest Rumors and Reports

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    March 20: According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Patriots are interested in former Chiefs right tackle Eric Winston.

    March 17: According to Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun, the Patriots are among a group of teams showing interest in recently released defensive end Elvis Dumervil.

    March 16: A lot of conflicting reports around Emmanuel Sanders these past 24 hours, so here's the latest: Adam Schefter of ESPN reports the Patriots are "still mulling whether to sign" him to an offer sheet. The Steelers must be notified immediately if he has signed the offer sheet.

    March 15: Adam Schefter reported on ESPN's SportsCenter that the Patriots and Brandon Lloyd are working on a restructured contract, and that the receiver is willing to return to New England on a reduced deal.

    March 15: Adam Schefter of ESPN reports the Patriots are hosting Steelers restricted free agent wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders for a workout on Friday.

    March 15: Tom E. Curran of CSNNE.com reports the Patriots will host defensive end Dwight Freeney for a visit on Friday.

    March 14: Albert Breer and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com are reporting that safety Adrian Wilson and defensive end John Abraham will visit the Patriots on Friday.

    March 14: Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Patriots will host former Seahawks and Jets running back Leon Washington for a visit today.

    March 14: Tim Graham of The Buffalo News reports that former Bills wide receiver Donald Jones is visiting the Patriots today.

    March 13: Schefter reports that the Broncos are engaged in serious talks with wide receiver Wes Welker, and that a decision on his next home is expected today.

    March 12: Karen Guregian of The Boston Herald reports that the Patriots and wide receiver Wes Welker have ended contract talks for the day, essentially signalling the beginning for the slot receiver on the open market. 

    March 12: Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that the Patriots are considered "on top to land Browns wide receiver Josh Cribbs" right now, followed by the 49ers and the Cardinals.

    March 12: Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports that the Patriots have not yet made an official offer to Welker during these negotiations, and that they are preparing to make their very first offer before free agency begins.

    March 11: Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports that the Patriots are among the teams interested in Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, but there is a caveat. Cruz recently switched agents and is now represented by Tom Condon, who the Patriots normally don't do business with.

    March 11: Greg Bedard of The Boston Globe reports that the Patriots would like to get cornerback Aqib Talib's contract done soon. Bedard says he is the Patriots' top target at No. 1 cornerback.

    March 11: Patriots owner Robert Kraft told the media he wants Welker to be a "Patriot for life. Just like Tom Brady." We've heard those words before, and it falls in sync with a recent report that as of last week, the Patriots and Welker were closer to a deal than they've been in a long time.

Free Agency Additions/Re-Signings

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    OT Will Svitek: one-year, $1 million contract

    CB Aqib Talib: one-year, $5 million contract

    LB/ST Niko Koutouvides: one-year deal, terms unknown

    S Adrian Wilson: one-year deal, terms unknown

    CB Kyle Arrington: four-year, $16 million contract

    WR Donald Jones: three-year deal, terms unknown

    RB/KR/PR Leon Washington: one-year contract, terms unknown

    WR Danny Amendola: five-year, $31 million contract

    TE Michael Hoomanawanui: one year, $1.323 million RFA tender

Free Agency Subtractions

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    WR Brandon Lloyd: released

    WR Wes Welker: signed two-year, $12 million contract with the Broncos

    S Patrick Chung: signed a three-year, $10 million contract with the Eagles

    G Donald Thomas: signed a four-year, $14 million deal with the Colts

S Patrick Chung Signs with the Eagles

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    Terms: signed a three-year, $10 million contract with the Eagles

    The writing has been on the wall with this one for a little bit now. Chung has never been able to stay healthy, and his play took a significant step back this season.

    He played just three snaps in the playoffs, and lost playing time all season to 2012 second-round pick Tavon Wilson and free-agent pickup Steve Gregory.

    Whether this move was wise or not will depend on the evolution of Wilson, but Chung didn't do anything to give reason to believe he'd be the answer at safety.

    Grade: B-

G Donald Thomas Signs with the Colts

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    Terms: signed a four-year, $14 million deal

    There was no chance the Patriots were going to keep him around. He had an opportunity to get a starting job and get paid starting money, and he did exactly that.

    Thomas played all 16 games, and started seven in relief duty for injured guards Logan Mankins and Dan Connolly. He has been an important backup over the past two years, playing 26 games and 721 snaps total in that span. 

    They still need someone to play behind Mankins and Connolly, but paying Thomas that kind of money was out of the question.

    Grade: B

WR Wes Welker Signs with the Broncos

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    Terms: two-year, $12 million contract with the Broncos

    The market was not kind to slot receivers this year, even one who just happened to be the most productive receiver in the NFL over the past five years. 

    The Patriots offer of two years and $10 million with incentives came in a bit lower than many expected, and Welker was able to get the contract he couldn't get with New England somewhere else.

    Now, will the Patriots be able to get the production they got out of Welker out of someone else?

    Perhaps it's time to evolve the offense. The Patriots have a lot of money tied up in two tight ends that do a majority of their work over the middle of the field. They'll still need to find someone to fill the slot role, but they feel that position can be filled for less money.

    Clearly, the Patriots didn't want Welker as much as Patriots fans did. They hardly even tried to get him back. If they retain Edelman or target Danny Amendola, the position will be filled with ease and for cheaper. Will it be someone as productive as Welker? Who knows, but maybe it doesn't have to be. 

    Grade: C-

Patriots Sign WR Danny Amendola

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    Terms: five-year, $31 million contract

    Amendola has been a solid slot receiver for the Rams, and finished the 2012 season with 63 catches for 666 yards and three touchdowns in 11 games. Had he played the full season, he would have finished with around 92 receptions, 969 yards and four touchdowns. He also comes with a similar skill set to Welker, with his quickness allowing him to get open underneath and even better speed.

    The Patriots paid $0.1 million per year more for Amendola than the Broncos paid for Welker. That will likely stick in the craw of some Patriots fans, but Amendola is also four years younger and possesses much of the same skill set as Welker. 

    He's also a bit more brittle. Amendola was relatively healthy early in his career, but he has played just 12 games over the past two years, making him a bit of a candidate for the "injury prone" label, but he has come back quickly from many of his injuries. 

    If the Patriots can get him to stay healthy, he could have Welker-like production in the Patriots offense, without the concerns over his age coming back to haunt him.

    Grade: B

Patriots Sign RB/KR/PR Leon Washington

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    Terms: one-year, $1.56 million contract

    The Patriots lost a wide receiver and a punt returner in Wes Welker. They signed a wide receiver in Amendola, and now, they've added a punt/kickoff returner in Leon Washington.

    Let's be clear on that, first of all: Washington's position is running back, but with just 114 yards on offense in 2012, that's hardly his primary strength. It certainly was a strength from 2006 through 2009, when he averaged 92 rushing attempts, 446 yards and three rushing touchdowns per season.

    Turn to his return stats, though, and you'll find three consecutive seasons over 1,200 return yards.

    He averaged a whopping 29 yards on kickoff returns in 2012, which ranked third in the NFL among returners with at least 16 attempts. The Patriots have lacked a dynamic presence on their return unit for quite some time, and averaged no more than 22.7 yards per kickoff return over the past four years.

    With Washington in on a one-year deal, the Patriots are hoping he'll give them the answers they're looking for, at least for 2013.

    Grade: B+

Patriots Sign WR Donald Jones

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    Terms: three-year, $4.155 million contract

    The wide receiver situation is already getting a major shake-up this offseason, and one area the Patriots needed to improve was their speed and size on the outside. Jones has both, but remains untapped potential and has been limited in his time with Buffalo.

    Does that change now that Tom Brady is the quarterback? He has improved each of his three years in the NFL, and had a career-best 41 catches on 62 targets (66.1 percent) for 443 yards and four touchdowns in 2012. He does have some issues with drops, though, having dropped 11 of 93 catchable balls (11.8 percent).

    He is far from a deep threat, too. According to ProFootballFocus.com, he was targeted 27 times on passes of 20 yards or more and came away with just four receptions while dropping two passes.

    The Patriots continue to add players that have burned them in the past. In the four games against the Patriots where Jones was not a reserve, he had 18 receptions for 319 yards (17/7 yards per catch) and two touchdowns.

    Jones will be a nice addition as a receiver who can line up all over the field, but will do a good chunk of his damage as a slot/possession receiver. If he can stay healthy (ankle injury in 2011, calf injury in 2012, season-ending IR in 2012 with non-football injury) he can be a nice addition to the offense. 

    Grade: B-

Patriots Re-Sign CB Kyle Arrington

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    Terms: four-year, $16 million contract

    The New England Patriots killed two birds with one stone, as this marked both their first major re-signing and their first defensive signing of the free-agency period.

    The often-under-appreciated Arrington struggled in duties as an outside cornerback during the season, but stepped up big when moved to the slot with the addition of Aqib Talib and the emergence of Alfonzo Dennard. His physicality against the run and good quickness allow him to man that spot well.

    He ranked 16th out of 71 qualifying defensive backs in ProFootballFocus.com's tackling efficiency, measuring missed tackles per tackle attempt, and allowed just 19 completions on 39 targets (48.7 percent) in the last nine games of the season (regular season and postseason) playing primarily in the slot.

    The Patriots had serious question marks around the secondary with both Arrington and Talib free agents and Dennard facing jail time. This gives them at least one answer, and while public perception may be that this was a failure, it's actually far from it.

    Grade: B+

RB Danny Woodhead Signs with the Chargers

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    Terms: two-year contract, terms unknown

    This makes two ultra-reliable players walking out the door in a 48-hour span. Woodhead wasn't the fastest, quickest or biggest player on the field, but he knew how to do all the little things right. His sure-handedness in the passing game will be missed, as will his outstanding ball security (three fumbles with the Patriots). 

    That's not the only dependability that will be missed. Woodhead has missed just two games to injury with the Patriots. The same cant be said of Shane Vereen, who has been considered an injury risk before finally staying healthy in 2012.

    The Patriots obviously felt confident in what they saw out of Vereen down the stretch. 

    The Patriots obviously felt confident in what they saw out of Vereen down the stretch.

    He played 15 snaps in Week 4 through 6, and an average of 15.5 snaps per game for the final 13 regular and postseason games, according to ProFootballFocus.com. Now, his workload will likely increase. Can he stay healthy and continue to trend upward? That will determine whether this move is a loss or gain.

    Grade: C

Patriots Sign S Adrian Wilson

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    Terms: three-year deal, terms unknown

    If Devin McCourty is locked in as the Patriots' top free safety, they still have questions next to him. Will it be Steve Gregory or Tavon Wilson? It will likely be the latter, but in signing Adrian Wilson, the Patriots give themselves a little insurance in the event the former Wilson doesn't pan out as expected.

    Adrian Wilson was actually very solid in coverage, yielding just 12 receptions on 27 targets (44.4 percent), although he did come off the field in some nickel packages.

    He could also provide a spark in the pass-rush, having been sent on 42 rushes and generating nine total pressures (five hurries, one hit, three contributed sacks), creating pressure on over 20 percent of his pass-rushes (according to ProFootballFocus.com).

    The safety spot was an area the Patriots needed to address at some point this offseason, and now, they have likely created a solid training camp battle between two promising players.

    Grade: B+

Patriots Re-Sign CB Aqib Talib

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    Terms: one-year, $5 million contract

    Well, this marks the first big win for the Patriots of the free-agency period.

    Talib wanted a multi-year deal, but the Patriots were wary of giving Talib more than one year because of the injury issues and off-field behavior concerns when they traded for him. A one-year deal will help them get a better read on his ability to stay on the field and out of trouble.

    Talib had a tough first outing against the Colts in which he gave up 141 yards and two touchdowns, but played very well after that, and didn't yield another touchdown pass all season. 

    Along with moving Alfonzo Dennard into the starting lineup, bringing in Aqib Talib was another move that allowed the Patriots to switch to more man coverage. That is where Talib individually excels, and with him back in the fold for another year and Arrington back as well, it looks like they're gearing the secondary that direction again. 

    The Patriots brought back one of their key free agents, albeit one with significant question marks, on a team-friendly deal. They also have answered one of the most significant question marks on their roster over the past 24 hours.

    Grade: A

Patriots Release Brandon Lloyd

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    Cap Savings: $2.9 million

    The wide receiver position is going to look completely different for the Patriots in 2012. With the departures of Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd, New England has lost 192 of its receptions from 2012.

    The Patriots wanted to bring Lloyd back, but at a lower price tag. Lloyd wanted to be back, even on a restructured deal. So why the release? The two sides may have been too far apart. Also, Lloyd's agent is Tom Condon, who has had issues with Patriots brass in the past (tight end Benjamin Watson's holdout in 2006 set the tone for the relationship).

    The Patriots built protection into his contract to allow them to move on from Lloyd, because they were concerned with some character issues that followed Lloyd around his six NFL teams in his nine-year career. 

    This may not be the end for Lloyd in New England. The market was bare for Lloyd last year, and several needy teams have already addressed their needs with a heavy wide receiver market. 

    If it isn't the end, the Patriots have to figure out how to better manage Lloyd. If it is, they have to figure out how to better manage their talent at the wide receiver position this year and in the future.

    Lloyd earned a reputation in New England for making dazzling catches, but also had issues staying on his feet, collecting yards after the catch and getting on the same page with Tom Brady. The Patriots desperately need a boundary receiver to win matchups on the outside and force defenses to respect the deep half of the field. Lloyd will not be doing that for the Patriots in 2013, whether he's with the team or not.

    Grade: C-

Patriots Re-Sign LB/ST Niko Koutouvides

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    Terms: one-year deal, terms unknown

    Koutouvides is not a big-time player on defense, on the field for just nine defensive snaps in 2012. As a core special teamer, though, getting him back in the fold is a solid move. 

    Grade: B+

Patriots Sign OT Will Svitek

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    Terms: one-year, $1 million contract

    Svitek started 10 games at left tackle in place of injured Sam Baker back in 2011, and played in a combined 45 games at various spots from 2009-2011. He could also serve as a "swing" tackle, lining up as a tight end in jumbo sets.

    He missed the entire 2012 season with an injury, but has proven a capable backup in the past.

    Quick, who was Nate Solder's backup at left tackle last year? Sebastian Vollmer. An injury would have created quite the shake-up across the offensive line.

    With Vollmer still on the open market, the Patriots (at least for now) have someone who could fill in at either tackle spot in a pinch.

    Grade: B