14 hours and counting, until the NFL Free Agent Market officially is open for business. At 12:01am ET, Friday teams can start to offer contracts to free agents. The Patriots will potentially have 13 players who can be offered contracts. Here is a list of the players that will hit the open market.
Potential unrestricted free agents: OLB Tully Banta-Cain, CB Leigh Bodden, OLB Derrick Burgess, RB Kevin Faulk, DE Jarvis Green, P Chris Hanson, G Stephen Neal, ILB Junior Seau, TE Benjamin Watson.
Potential restricted free agents: K Stephen Gostkowski, G Logan Mankins, OLB Pierre Woods.
Franchise player: NT Vince Wilfork.
The Patriots say that they are working to sign DT Vince Wilfork to a long term and I am hoping that is really the case. You can expect Gostkowski and Mankins will both be tendered allowing the Patriots to match any offer or receive draft picks as compensation. I also think that Stephen Neal will be back, maybe on a one year incentive laden deal, or a two year deal with some guaranteed money. Even though the guy is 33 wouldn’t you still want someone protecting Brady who beat Brock Lesnar. Neal has started 73 of 78 games he has played for the Patriots and has been around for all 3 Super Bowl titles.
Adalius Thomas is all but on his way out and for rivalries sake it looks like he is going to appear in NY. If that is the case then his position will be filled through the Draft. I really like Jerry Hughes and Brandon Graham.
Kevin Faulk has to be a top priority for this team. He is one of the best 3rd down/blitz protection running backs in the league, and a solid veteran and professional. Tully Banta-Cain also needs to be brought back after he recorded 10 sacks last season and was the only real passing rushing threat on this defense. As for the rest of the defense I think we can let the rest of them walk if they want, maybe offer a contract to Bodden, but they need to sign a CB in free agency as well as pick one up in the draft.
As for free agents there are many different options for the teams to look at. CB is an area in need of upgrade. Potential candidates to go after include: Roderick Hood, Ellis Hobbs, and Dre’ Bly. I’m going to jump on the bandwagon and say that the Patriots need to make a run at Julius Peppers. People say he took plays off in Carolina, veterans change their mindset when they come to New England. Also the Patriots should take the time to talk to Gary Brackett’s agent too. The Patriots are also in prime position to look at restricted free agents also as they have 3 2nd round picks to work with.
The final area to look is WR. With Wes Welker having off-season knee surgery and Moss in his final year depth is needed for this receiving corp. The last time Brady needed targets they went out and got/signed Moss, Welker, Kelly Washington and Donte Stallworth. I think Malcom Floyd is an interesting player he’s 28 and is big 6’5, 225. Jason Avant could be a good slot pickup even though he is a RFA, and finally is has been rumored that the Cardinals are willing to take a 3rd rounder for Anquan Boldin. The Patriots don’t have a 3rd rounder, but I’m sure the Cardinals will listed for the 57th overall pick.