In part 1, we looked at the prospect of Utility Safety James Sanders remaining with the squad, despite his hefty contract and his slipping performance. Of course, the chances of Sanders being let go in a short off-season is extremely slim, especially with the lack of experienced players waiting in the wings. Sanders is a locker room leader, as well as a favorite of the coaching staff. The only reason to let Sanders go would be to free cap space for a free agent acquisition. In this off-season, that seems unlikely.
However, there is a player on the defense who might have his position in jeopardy because of his performance on the field (in addition to a contract near the same level as Sanders). Brandon Meriweather has become the fan-(least?)-favorite scapegoat over the past season for a multitude of reasons:
1) His questionable off-the-field actions, which reflect poorly upon Meriweather's character, especially when compared to Sanders' pristine image.
2) His early season benching for free lancing and ignoring the coaching staff, again a negative when compared to Sanders.
So what will happen to Brandon Meriweather?
Like Sanders, I question if the Patriots will make a move with such a short off-season. However, if the Patriots are presented with an extremely reasonable and beneficial trade under a new CBA, I could see Meriweather being a top trade prospect. He's coming off another Pro Bowl season and he could benefit from playing in a different defense where's allowed to be more of a showboat in the secondary. Just like Asante Samuel going to the Eagles, Meriweather might go to a defense where's he's allowed to play more coverage and worry less about pursuit angles.
Still, Meriweather has undeniable talent when he puts his whole game together. He's a great athlete, who can hit with power and also cover with finesse. He must improve his mental game this off-season if he wishes to earn another contract with the Patriots. He has all the physical capabilities that James Sanders' lacks, but he has half the football intelligence. Meriweather has this season to put everything together if he's going to stay a Patriot for the rest of his career, or else he'll leave town in a mid-season trade like Laurence Maroney.
Meriweather can still develop into a stud in the defense- a few solid weeks of great angles and ball play will make everyone forget about last season- but he has to develop. If he continues to play at his current level, he doesn't have a bright future with the Patriots. Unless Meriweather improves, he's a player who might see the door this year.