This offseason, our team has a whopping 20 million in cap space - but that's because we've got a boatload of free agents. Let's examine them all and discuss who stays and who goes...and who will replace them.
- WR Wes Welker
Regardless of the drop, we all know that Welker, barring an acrimonious contract negotiation, will be tagged or signed by next year. My take: He's a vital key and our only proven WR going forward.
Anderson is young and athletic. This year, he emerged into a full-time starter, effectively replacing Carter's production. If anything, the D-Line stepped up in Carter's absence. At the start of camp, he was viewed as a pure pass-rusher but has shown ability to be a 3-down linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. When we desperately need passrush, Anderson is a must-keep. My take: He'll be back as part of a 3-4 LB corp.
- WR Deion Branch
Branch is old, slow, and on his last legs. He has shown tendency to drop balls and no longer warrants anything more than single coverage when facing a semi-decent CB. He can show veteran flashes (see TD vs Broncos) and is Brady's buddy, but definitely is not someone we can build around. My take: Branch will retire or come back on a 1-year contract as a reserve WR. Could get cut in training camp depending on competition.
- *QB Brian Hoyer
Hoyer is a restricted free agent. I see a trade in the works, possibly for a second-round pick. Sadly, Hoyer hasn't got much playing time, but has shown great potential in spots. Having him on or off the roster won't effect anything unless Brady goes down. My take: Hoyer is either gone completely or traded. We'll see how much the Patriots like Mallett by watching for whether they go for another QB or cut Hoyer and don't replace him.
While Green-Ellis never fumbles and rarely is stopped for no gain, he is not capable of big plays and is not a pass-catching threat. While he'll look for a contract elsewhere, I fail to see him getting the money he wants from another team when youth and explosiveness is what is looked for. I feel he isn't a bell-cow back. He's a goal-line back, a 3rd and 2 back. My take: He'll be back in the end unless we feel very comfortable with Ridley, Vereen, and Woodhead, and don't want to pay him. I think other teams will assume his success is the system.
- DE Andre Carter
Carter is much older and may not be explosive enough after his injury. He produced prolifically before going down but the D didn't miss a beat after he left. Carter doesn't seem to thrive in a 3-4 defense. My take: He might be back in a no-guarantees camp 1-year contract. He'll have to work his way in but if BB feels comfortable with what's already there, he'll be retiring or looking for one last decent payday somewhere else.
- OL Dan Connolly
Connolly is the glue guy for the O-Line. When a hole appears, he plugs it. LG, RG, C, he does it all and does it quite decently. Did I mention he returns punts? I can't imagine not keeping him but we'll have to hope no one overpays him elsewhere. My take: He'll be back.
Slater was a team captain, a Pro Bowl STer, and a backup safety. He even caught one pass. But is he worth a spot? He'll be back on a 1 or 2 year cheap contract. He's too entrenched here to leave and I can't see another team wanting him other than for special teams. My take: He'll be back unless he's beat out in camp and we have plenty of ST depth.
- DL Kyle Love
An undrafted player, Love has not produced much in terms of stats but has stuffed the holes and been a force. However, his record is not very long and teams will hesitate on giving him a big payday. My take: He'll be back next to Wilfork for the next 3-4 years.
Koppen has been a stalwart of the line for the longest time. However, the team lost him very early and didn't seem to miss him. We might see him retire. He could come back and groom the next center but with Connolly, Wendell, and McDonald all younger, I doubt it. My take: He retires.
Ihedigbo was exposed for what he is: a backup safety. However, he's been pretty vocal on the team and seems to really enjoy his tenure here. Other teams won't pay him money to be a mediocre safety. My take: He stays. We always need safety depth.
- RB Kevin Faulk
He retires. Thanks for an amazing run, Mr. Longest-Tenured Patriot.
- DE Shaun Ellis
- LB Gary Guyton
He's gone. We're not keeping this guy. He'll angle for a contract, become a backup somewhere or he'll sit in camp and get cut in roster trimmings.
- DB Nate Jones
I'm praying he goes since it'll mean we're better off in terms of CB depth.
- *CB Antwaun Molden
The long, tall CB showed a lot of potential. Not enough to excite another team but still plenty. My take: We need tall guys. He's coming back.
He'll be back in camp. The question is whether he makes the roster. My hunch is that he might start on the PUP or get stashed on IR depending on the LB depth.
Warren has expressed his desire to come back. Last year, he had an implicit deal with BB to come back, rejecting other suitors. I see the same thing playing out here. He might be a bubble player like Ventrone, being cut depending on our needs per week. As d-line depth thins out, he'll come back. My take: He's not getting any major money, but is playing for a ring.
- *S Bret Lockett
Famous for canoodling with Kardashian, he can't make the field. I see him gone.
- LB Tracy White
A consummate professional, he's on the wrong side of 30. With rising STers Slater, Koutovides, Tarpinian he may or may not come back. He'll be in camp though.
So what are the open roster spots? LB, S, C, DE, CB.
LB just needs depth. I think BB may draft a late-round (4th or lower) pick for depth but we have a glut of backup LBs and not as many stars. Cunningham may come back considering we've switched to 3-4. He showed a ton of promise in his first year. I see him as developing into a semi-starter.
On DB, we'll be looking for slot CBs, and a starting safety. Look for a safety in the 2nd or third round. With Dowling coming back and Moore developing into a star, I see CB as a lower priority. McCourty will perform better with a good safety. A Barron/McCourty tandem could be lethal together. We'll try out a whole bunch of FAs too. That's BB's approach. Throw a whole bunch of crap at the wall and see what sticks. It uncovers a few stars and he's a genius. I say that without sarcasm.
As for center, we'll look to the draft in order to get someone cheap. It depends on who's available but we'll see a first or second round pick for this. New England always drafts for the O-line. We rarely bring in FAs. Waters will be back BTW. With Cannon backing him up. With Solder, Vollmer, and Light at tackle.
We now come to DE. DE is a tough position because as much as I would like the Patriots to draft one, BB seems to prefer drafting DE either in the first round or in late ones. There were exceptions (Crable, Brace) and they didn't turn out so well. It depends on who's available. My hunch is this won't be a priority. Of course, it depends on who's available.
Now the controversial question: WR. If we can get Lloyd or a star FA WR with speed and height, cut Ocho straight away. But if Jeffery or a true star with height and speed falls in the draft, I'd take him.Why do I say that. Go to Josh McDaniels. He drafted Demaryius Thomas, a super-tall and fast WR from GA. The knock on Thomas was that he didn't have good memory and didn't seem to have a good sense of routes. Daniels was derided for passing on Dez Bryant. Two years later, Bryant has attitude issues and D.T. is a Broncos star. Tebow-to-D.T. is their version of Brady2Moss. So my prediction is if we can get a D.T. kind of player, we'll pull the trigger. The pundits will scratch their heads and wonder why NE is abandoning the quick WR, TE attack, but we're simply adding a new dimension. We desperately need a WR who will warrant serious coverage. Imagine a good WR with Welker along with Hernandez, Gronkowski, and Woodhead out of the backfield. That's a ridiculous package. We're going to get a WR in FA or the draft. We'll see. Either way, Ocho is probably on his way out. Sadly.