5 Available Free Agents Still Within the New England Patriots' Reach

Erik Frenz@ErikFrenzSenior Writer IApril 13, 2015

5 Available Free Agents Still Within the New England Patriots' Reach

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    While other teams unload one Brinks truck after another in the early days of free agency, the New England Patriots bide their time, waiting for the right opportunities to sign players who can round out their roster at discounted prices.

    Of course, there have been some exceptions to this philosophy—just last year, when the Patriots were the ones hauling in the prize fish in the free-agency waters by signing Darrelle Revis. For the most part, though, the Patriots have used free agency to help build their team, not collect talent. 

    That being said, there are still some players available who can help in some way. They may not be the top-tier starters that were signed in the opening wave of the free-agent market, but they will be value signings that supplement the current roster.

    Here's a look at a handful that could benefit the Patriots.

Dan Connolly

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    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    It's baffling that the Patriots still have not re-signed Dan Connolly. 

    The Patriots mantra is "do your job," but Connolly's has been "do every job." The seven-year Patriot has seemingly done it all, from left guard to center to right guard and even a kickoff return that will live in Patriots lore long after Connolly is done with the team. 

    The Patriots have always valued that kind of versatility in their players, particularly on the offensive line. They also value leadership, a quality Connolly exuded in 2014 as a team captain, taking the torch after Logan Mankins' departure from the team. 

    Connolly has been dependable at worst and a lifesaver at best; with all the changes the Patriots' offensive line went through at the start of the 2014 season, the Patriots shouldn't risk that kind of instability again this year.

Brandon Deaderick

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    Bill Haber/Associated Press

    It's been a couple years since Brandon Deaderick suited up for the Patriots, but a lot has changed in that time. Deaderick was cut following the 2012 season and spent 2013 with the Jacksonville Jaguars and 2014 with the New Orleans Saints. The Patriots have not been opposed to bringing a player back to the fold after a departure; just ask Deion Branch and Patrick Chung. 

    Deaderick has not played his best football over the past two seasons, but if he is reunited with Bill Belichick, he could see success in a supplemental role similar to the one he filled in the Patriots defense in his first tenure. He'd primarily be used on passing downs, either as an interior rusher in a four-man line or a 3- or 5-technique in a three-man line. 

    When the Patriots drafted Deaderick, they were running a 3-4 base defense. When they cut him, they were shifting to more of a 4-3. Last season, they went back to the 3-4, so the time may be now for Deaderick to make his return to New England. 

Colin McCarthy

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Dont'a Hightower's status for Week 1 is in jeopardy, as he is on a six- to seven-month timetable following labrum surgery, according to Ben Volin of The Boston Globe. There's also concern over how much life is left in Jerod Mayo's legs after he suffered a second straight season-ending injury (pectoral in 2013, patellar tendon in 2014). 

    With so much in question at the linebacker position, the Patriots should be looking for a little more insurance at the position. That's where former Tennessee Titans linebacker Colin McCarthy comes into play. Field Yates of ESPN reported in March that the Patriots had McCarthy in for a visit. A month has gone by since then, and the Patriots still have not signed a linebacker.

    At 26 years old, McCarthy is one of the rare free-agent signings that almost certainly still has his best football ahead of him. The Patriots wouldn't even need him to be a full-time starter, although he may be asked to carry a heavy workload from time to time as injuries deem necessary. 

Jermaine Gresham

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Bill Belichick loves a good tight end as much as more than the next guy, and although the Patriots have already added former Buffalo Bills tight end Scott Chandler to the roster this offseason, there's always room for another.

    Former Cincinnati Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham was a first-round pick in 2010, the same year that the Patriots selected Rob Gronkowski in the second round. Gronkowski has been by far the more productive of the two, but Gresham could still add something to the offense. He's a bit more of a pass-catching tight end, but at 6'5" and 260 pounds, he's not short on size.

    Gresham is a red-zone monster and hauled in all five of his touchdowns from inside the red zone in 2014 (and eight of his nine touchdowns over the past two years). The Patriots already have Gronkowski and Brandon LaFell as red-zone threats, but a third could put this offense over the edge.

    If the Patriots are not sold on Tim Wright after his first year with the team, Gresham could be insurance on having that same kind of threat at the position. If nothing else, Wright and Gresham could compete for snaps. 

Knowshon Moreno

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    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    The Patriots have never been shy about adding a player who's hurt them in the past. They just signed Chandler, who has caught 28 passes for 384 yards and four touchdowns in nine career games against New England. Imagine how they would feel about scooping up Knowshon Moreno, who has logged 61 carries for 358 yards and two touchdowns in his past two games against the Patriots.

    Beyond what he's done to the Patriots, it's more important what he can do for the Patriots. He's coming off knee surgery after tearing his ACL early in the 2014 season, but if the Patriots were to sign him on a one-year, prove-it deal, they could bring him in for training camp and see what he has left.

    If nothing else, he could carve out a role on passing downs, where he excelled with Peyton Manning as a pass-catcher out of the backfield and as a blocker. He caught 60 balls for 548 yards and three touchdowns with the Denver Broncos in 2013. 

    The Patriots have already fortified their depth chart at running back over the past 14 months by collecting Jonas Gray, James White, Tyler Gaffney, LeGarrette Blount, Brandon Bolden and Travaris Cadet for the 2015 season. A little more depth never hurts, especially if the Patriots could get Moreno on a low-risk deal. 

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