NFL Free Agency: 5 Free-Agent Targets for the New England Patriots

Robert YeeCorrespondent IIJune 9, 2011

NFL Free Agency: 5 Free-Agent Targets for the New England Patriots

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    FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 02:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots celebrates a touchdown by teammate BenJarvis Green-Ellis in the first quarter against the Miami Dolphins on January 2, 2011 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa
    Elsa/Getty Images

    The New England Patriots, by many accounts, had a successful 2011 NFL Draft. They addressed the need for a backup running back with Shane Vereen, and (to some extent) bolstered the depth of the offensive line with Marcus Cannon and Nate Solder.

    The team still has some weaknesses, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The team has effectively no pass rush, and Bill Belichick neglected to address that need through the draft.

    The Pats could also use a long-ball receiver, a la Randy Moss, to help open up holes for Wes Welker and Danny Woodhead.

    Who knows how free agency will shape up with the lockout still in effect. If and when the lockout lifts, here are five free agents who could help the Patriots return to Super Bowl form.

WR Plaxico Burress

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 16:  Plaxico Burress #17 of the New York Giants eludes the tackle of Fabian Washington #31 of the Baltimore Ravens during their game on November 16, 2008 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    After serving almost two years in jail for shooting himself in the leg (Donte Stallworth served 24 days for killing a man, mind you), Plaxico Burress is a free and unemployed man.

    The Patriots have a good history with "troubled" receivers (Randy Moss comes to mind). I don't think Burress will command much money, as he hasn't played in two seasons. Burress could be a cheap option for the Patriots, who are in need of a deep threat to open up holes for Wes Welker. Brandon Tate hasn't proven a viable option here, so the Pats need to take a flyer elsewhere.

DE Mathias Kiwanuka

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 12:  Matt Moore #3 of the Carolina Panthers is sacked in the fourth quarter by Mathias Kiwanuka #94 of the New York Giants on September 12, 2010 at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Giants defe
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Mathias Kiwanuka, a first-round pick by the New York Giants in 2006, has struggled since coming into the league. He recorded eight sacks in 2008, but then started just six games in 2009 and battled injury throughout 2010.

    The New England Patriots added the aging (or, aged) Marcus Stroud to shore up the pass rush, but I don't know how much impact the 32-year-old will have.

    If Kiwanuka gets out of New York, where he's struggled the past two seasons, he could have a breakout season with the Patriots. At least we know that he can't make the pass rush much worse.

RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis

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    FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 19:  Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis #42 of the New England Patriots runs 33 yards to score a touchdown in the first quarter against safety Charlie Peprah #26 of the Green Bay Packers at Gillette Stadium on December 19, 2010 in F
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    For lack of a better word, it would be silly for the Patriots to let BenJarvus Green-Ellis ("The Law Firm") walk. He's the best running back New England has seen since Corey Dillon.

    Green-Ellis rushed for 1,008 yards in 2010, which is about as much as one can expect in this pass-heavy offense. With another year of experience, Green-Ellis should maintain that pace, if not surpass it.

LB Paul Posluszny

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    ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 28: Paul Posluszny #51 of the Buffalo Bills plays against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Ralph Wilson Stadium on November 28, 2010 in Orchard Park, New York. Pittsburgh won 19-16 in overtime.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    This is obviously a stretch, as Posluszny is the one player on the Buffalo Bills that I actually notice when watching them play.

    The Bills can't get much worse, and maybe Posluszny knows this. Maybe he wants to spend his prime in a place where he can win. New England offers him that place, as well as an already established young linebacking core. Brandon Spikes could move to the outside linebacker spot, and Posluszny could slide into the right inside spot.

OT Matt Light

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    HONOLULU - JANUARY 30:  Matt Light #72 of the New England Patriots stands on the field during the 2011 NFL Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium on January 30, 2011 in Honolulu, Hawaii.  (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)
    Kent Nishimura/Getty Images

    Approaching 33, Matt Light is past his prime, and the Patriots drafted an incumbent in Nate Solder. But a rookie tackle replacing one of the game's best is a risky proposition, and New England would be smart to bring Light back.

    It might be tough, as the three-time Pro Bowler will probably command more money elsewhere. But the wishful-thinking optimist in me hopes that he'll decide to come back to New England for at least one more solid shot at a Super Bowl.