Merry Free Agency Eve, everyone!
Over the past few weeks, I've been breaking down all of the impending free agents that I think would make the best Patriots. Some were franchised (stupid Michael Griffin), some were resigned with their respective teams (stupid Robert Mathis), and some are still about to hit the market (Come on, Brandon Lloyd!). While nobody will ever know what goes on under Bill Belichick's hood, the speculation will be over shortly, and soon we'll be able to stop making guesses about who the team will sign and start obsessively overanalyzing each new Patriot. I personally am looking forward to setting unrealistic expectations about how much of an impact each player will have and figuring out ways to convince myself of how much better the defense will be in 2012.
But that is something for another day. There are still a few positions that I haven't touched on yet in regards to free agency - quarterback, tight end, and special teams. The reason that I didn't devote an entire article to any of these positions is that the Pats are pretty much set there, and any free agent they choose to sign would more likely be an insurance policy (they could definitely do with another tight end, but more on that in a minute). Rather than ignore them all together, I figured I would close this series (best to end with a fizzle instead of a bang, I always say) by highlighting the remaining positions and naming some players that New England could possibly sign, either for depth or to increase competitiveness in training camp.
The only scenario in which I see New England picking up a QB via free agency is if they lose Brian Hoyer via a trade or if he departs for more money/the chance to start. Otherwise, between Hoyer, Mallett, and Tommy B, they are set at this position. However, on the off chance that Hoyer does walk, here are some of the quarterbacks who will be available that we can pray to the football gods never sees one single snap of the regular season.
Kyle Orton. I think Orton has gotten a bad rap over the past few seasons. He's not the kind of QB that is going to turn heads, but there are definitely worse options out there. He's got a strong arm, is fairly accurate, and makes good decisions when he is playing behind a strong offensive line that gives him time to throw.
Josh McCown. Say what you want about this guy, but he always finds a way to keep his teams in it. I can't figure for the life of me how Chicago thought Caleb Henne was a better option than McCown, but they did. Granted, seeing McCown as New England's starting quarterback is an absolute nightmare scenario, but he has been in the league long enough to make for a viable 3rd option.
David Garrard. Garrard never quite panned out, did he? Regardless, he has a strong arm, is fairly mobile, and has shown that he can effectively run an offense. I'd definitely take him as my 3rd quarterback.
Charlie Batch. I've always liked Batch. He works hard, takes advantage of the opportunities he is given, and does whatever is required of him to help his team. He's getting up there in years, but he'd do in a pinch.
New England is probably most likely to sign an older, veteran tight end to take on an Alge Crumpler type role. They won't be making a major splash with a John Carlson type, but I can see a few ends with something left in the tank joining this squad.
Randy McMichael. Older, experienced, blocking tight end who has plenty of years in the league and is comfortable playing 2nd or 3rd fiddle. He's going to come cheap and would likely welcome the chance to play for a contender. This move makes sense for both sides.
Leonard Pope. I don't see him returning to KC, and any way you slice it, 6'8" is 6'8". Pope is nowhere near the athlete Gronk is, but they are similar in size, and Pope has solid hands. He might get more interest elsewhere, but he'd make a great 3rd TE.
Daniel Fells. Fells is unlikely to garner too much interest, but he knows how to block and is a fairly decent route runner. New England could pick him up for very little money.
Reggie Kelly. Kelly may very well re-sign with Atlanta, who drafted him in 1999. If not, though, he is a blocking specialist and would be the exactly the kind of player Crumpler was when he came over from the Falcons.
If the Patriots bring in a kicker, it will be solely to give Stephen Gostkowski some training camp competition. New England is set at kicker and won't be making any permanent roster moves here. Odds are also good most of these kickers will be signed soon after free agency opens.
Jay Feely. Feely is 36 and coming off one of his worst years statistically. He'll be eager to prove he's still got it with a strong preseason.
Nick Folk. I'd actually like to see the Pats bring Folk into training camp for no other reason than to make the Jets second guess themselves. He's got a big leg, but isn't overly accurate.
Neil Rackers. Rackers still has the leg and the accuracy to be a starting kicker in the NFL in spite of his age. The odds of him being around for New England to even bring into camp are slim.
Like the kicker position, the Patriots aren't looking for a permanent roster spot. Here are some punters they might bring in for evaluation purposes early on in the year so they'll know what's available should Zoltan Mesko get hurt.
Mat McBriar. McBriar is coming off surgery for a cyst that is said to explain his falloff towards the end of the season. He's a fairly consistent punter that is likely to re-sign with Dallas.
Matt Turk. Turk is 43 and coming off a pretty rough season. At his age, and you have to wonder how much leg he has left in him.
Donnie Jones. Jones is an above average punter that had a decent year in St. Louis. He's nothing flashy, but he's consistent, and he could push Mesko during the preseason.
Let the Free Agent Frenzy Begin!
And of couyrse, by frenzy I mean watching a bunch of other teams make huge splashes and sign the big name players for lots of money while the Patriots sit back, bide their time, and don't sign anyone on my wish list. Dammit.