The offseason has just begun for the New England Patriots and the Pats have some key players who are free agents. I’m going to rank the players by importance (from 1-12) based on my opinion:
1. Julian Edelman: Edelman has been a Patriot for five years and was working on his rookie contract for cheap dollars, then was given an extension at the beginning of last offseason for 715,000 – none of which was guaranteed. Due to poor health Edelman suffered last offseason, but with Amendola and Welker receiving a combined 22 million of guaranteed money, and Edelman guaranteed none, it’s time to pay this man.
Brady has lacked consistency in his receiving core and just a consistent target would go a long way. At the end of the 2013 season, Brady was without receivers that accounted for 88.3% of Brady’s total completion in the 2012 season with Welker gone, Gronkowski injured, Lloyd gone, Hernandez locked up and Woodhead gone. Not only do the Patriots need to resign Edelman as a priority, but they need someone else as well.
2. Ryan Wendell: For an offensive line that had quite a few injuries this past season, Wendell provided a rather smooth transition to center. He was a huge part of the Patriots late-season surge in the running game, but did struggle against elite pass rushers in the league. Wendell was paid 1.015 million dollars last season and it will likely take a small raise to keep him, but I do it.
Wendell is a proven commodity and with Dante Scarnecchia retiring, I think it becomes more imperative to keep the offensive line intact. Wendell is durable as he played every single offensive snap this season and down in the trenches a tough player is a necessity.
3. Aqib Talib: I’m not as high on Talib as a lot of people, but he’s still important. I’d like to keep him, but with his injury problems I don’t know how vital he is when he’s not out there. You look and the naked eye can see a different (piss-poor) defense when he’s not out there, but what about someone who is better than Dennard, but not as good as Talib? To me, you’re not losing much especially if he can’t stay on the field if the Patriots were to look into free agency.
He has gone out two straight playoffs with injuries and had hip issues both season in New England. He offers swagger, but is swagger work six million dollars to you? Plus, the Patriots defense hasn’t looked much better on paper since Talib has been here as they still ranked 25th on third-down defense and 20th in allowing plays of 20 yards or more. In Indianapolis, a game where Talib played, the Patriots defense allowed six plays of 20+ yards, but against Denver where Talib missed a lot of it, they allowed eight 20+ yard plays. Not too much of a difference that a slightly less talented, but more healthy corner can’t give you.
4. Dane Fletcher: With the likely separation of the Patriots and Brandon Spikes, Fletcher could be a vital piece that adds depth to the inside linebacker position. Fletcher is also a terrific special teams player. Dane Fletcher only made 620,000 dollars last year and with that price tag the Patriots should keep him.
5. Matthew Mulligan: Mulligan proved to be a good run-blocking tight end when the Patriots were rushing for over 200 yards per game with LeGarrette Blount. It seems like a certainty that Gronkowski will go down at least once per season and Mulligan filled in nicely in certain roles. Mulligan wasn’t targeted a bunch in the passing game with just two completions and one touchdown, but he’s big at 6’4 and can develop into a red zone threat. Mulligan made 672,941 dollars last season. The Patriots will still need help at tight end besides Mulligan though.
6. LeGarrette Blount: I love what Blount did towards the end of the season, but it has led to people overrating him. He racked up a ton of yards against Indianapolis and Buffalo and those teams aren’t exactly stout run-defenders. He adds a physical element that I love, but at what cost? The running back position is one of the few positions the Patriots have good depth at, so I wouldn’t throw a ton of money at it.
Blount isn’t a good franchise tag option as he made 680,000 dollars last season, but running backs given the tag made 8.219 million dollars. Ridley is still working on his rookie contract and is due to make 777,750 dollars next season and Blount will cost much more either way. His reputation has been salvaged in New England and I’d expect him to go get his money elsewhere.
7. Danny Aiken: Aiken is the team’s long-snapper and there is value in a player that focuses on just those duties. He’s been solid for the past few years in that role and he won’t cost much so I’d keep him. Aiken made 555,000 dollars last season.
8. Michael Hoomanawanui: The Hooman was okay, but you can’t resign every one. I’d say if it were between Mulligan or Hooman, I’d take Mulligan just on sheer size. Hooman offers nothing that Mulligan doesn’t, but Hooman benefitted from being targeted 19 times to Mulligan’s two. The both had one touchdown and I just see Hoomanawanui’s limitations.
9. Will Svitek: When the offensive line was shifting due to injury, Svitek struggled and it led to him not even getting playing time at the end of the season. The big tackle was made to be insurance for Solder and Vollmer, but when they both went down, he couldn’t run-block. Since Vollmer and Solder will be back with Cannon as the backup, it seems there won’t be a role on this team for him.
10. Austin Collie: Collie provided a few good catches in big spots, but he’s not someone you need if you’re the Patriots. They have Amendola and hopefully, Edelman which renders Collie virtually useless.
11. Andre Carter: Carter was brought in half way through the season to provide a pass rush. He did that getting to the quarterback two times, but with his age there are better options at defensive line in free agency or the draft. I wouldn’t close the book on him doing the same thing he did this year next season.
12. Brandon Spikes: Adios, see you later buddy. If you can’t even show up for a meeting in the playoffs no team will need you. Spikes set a tough tone with his rough stile of play, but with a healthy linebacking core, he is an unnecessary trouble. Spikes made 870,000 dollars last season and though he excells at run-defense he was a liability in pass coverage. The way the season ended, it’s highly unlikely you’ll see Spikes back in New England and with Jamie Collins playing well, they won’t need him.