Christopher Price opens a six-pack of Patriots' free agent decisions from Thursday.
Harrison: A guy who has been in New England before — he was on the roster for a day last October — Harrison is a 6-foot-3, 316-pound defensive tackle who projects as a backup along New England’s defensive front. The 27-year-old was a third-round pick of the Bears in 2008 (90th overall) out of Arkansas, but in 37 career games over three seasons with the Bears, Harrison has done little to distinguish himself: he’s amassed 55 tackles, 3.0 sacks and three passes defensed. (He had previously failed a physical with the Panthers in September because of a knee problem.)
Gregory: This is probably the biggest signing of the day. New England gets itself a safety who some believe was playing out of position with the Chargers — next to Eric Weddle, San Diego had him in more of a strong safety position. (Pro Football Focus had him graded out as a -10.8 for the 2011 season.) With the Patriots, the 29-year-old could find a home at free safety, challenging James Ihedigbo for snaps. In addition, the presence of Gregory on the roster (and the possible acquisition of Landry) could mean Devin McCourty will make a full-time return to corner in 2012. Regardless, the 5-foot-11, 185-pounder does have some positional versatility — he has worked as a safety, and also spent time in the slot and on special teams, bringing the positional flexibility that they crave in Foxboro. According to reports, it’s a three-year deal worth roughly $8 million.
Connolly: No numbers are available, but it’s hard not to like this signing on the surface. Connolly is a versatile presence on the offensive line, having started as a guard and center over his four seasons in the NFL. The 6-foot-4, 313-pound Connolly has played in 42 games with the Patriots, including 13 games last season, most of which were serving as the starting center after Dan Koppen went down. Connolly will never be an All Pro, but he works well with Brady and the rest of the offensive line, is versatile and is an above average presence at both guard and center. (It will be interesting to see how the return of Connolly affects the negotiations with fellow free agent offensive lineman Koppen.)
Slater: Every team needs someone like Slater — a selfless, high-character guy who is willing to do just about anything to hang around the roster, whether it’s working at wide receiver, safety, or as a special teams’ captain. (Slater led the team with 17 special teams tackles in 2011.) He made his first Pro Bowl this past season, a well-deserved honor. The move gets a big thumbs-up here.
Scott: The 6-foot-5, 255-pounder out of Buffalo had 12 sacks his first two seasons, before having a season-ending knee injury 10 games into 2010. He appeared to struggle last season with the Raiders, where he was utilized almost exclusively as a left defensive end. According to Pro Football Focus, he played 251 defensive snaps in 2011 with Oakland (never more than 50 percent of snaps in a game), and had five quarterback pressures but no quarterback sacks or hits. Overall, he was graded out by PFF at a -11.6. If healthy, he could be insurance for the Patriots depending on what happens with free agent pass rushers Mark Anderson and Andre Carter. (He’s scheduled for an upcoming visit, per Shalise Manza-Young of the Boston Globe.)
Landry: The Patriots were able to beef up their safety spot with the addition of Gregory on Thursday, but Landry still remains on their radar, an intriguing possibility for a team that could still use some depth at the spot. Health is likely the biggest concern with Landry, who has played just 17 games the last two seasons. One NFC East scout said that when healthy, Landry is an active presence in the secondary, but he does have his drawbacks. "He has the ability to be a dynamic playmaker," he wrote in an e-mail to WEEI.com on Thursday. "He plays sideline to sideline, and with great energy. There are some issues in coverage being overaggressive, but he’s at his best when attacking the ball."
- The New England Patriots announced the re-signing of WR Mathew Slater. In addition, the Patriots signed DT Marcus Harrison.
- Patriots Mock Draft Tracker: Updated look at what the 'experts' are predicting the Patriots will do in the first round.
- PFW in Progress - The PFW crew discusses free agency as well as other offseason topics. (2 hour program)
Mike Reiss notes Patriots DE Mark Anderson is en route for a free-agent visit with the Miami Dolphins today.
- Christopher Price offers five thoughts on Day 3 of free agency and how it has impacted the Patriots.
- Mike Reiss thinks the Steve Gregory signing will shore up the troubled safety position in 2012.
- Tom E. Curran says former Charger safety Steve Gregory brings speed to the back end of the New England defense.
- Jeff Howe reports the Patriots decided to sign their own center, Dan Connolly, despite there being a handful of really good centers on the free-agent market.
- Mike Reiss posts the transcript of his weekly online chat. Terrific insight here as usual.
- Jeff Howe answers his weekly Patriots Mailbag: Mario Williams signing with Buffalo only increases Patriots need for depth.
- Mike Reiss notes Josh McDaniels spent time with some of LSU's draft prospects yesterday, and offers some thoughts on the Patriots and scouting.
- WEEI highlights Todd McShay's guest appearance with Dale Arnold to talk about how the Patriots might draft.
- Ian Rapoport Patriots Notebook: The Patriots helped their secondary yesterday, adding Steve Gregory, a player who could become a starter alongside Patrick Chung; Pats will be kicking the tires on two former first-round selections, Redskins safety LaRon Landry and Colts WR Anthony Gonzales, although the interest level is not clear, along with a visit from DE Trevor Scott; Former Bear DT Marcus Harrison was signed too.
- DJ Bean mocks the draft for the 3rd time. Patriots take S Mark Barron (Alabama) and WR Stephen Hill (Georgia Tech).
- Chris Burke (SI) Break it down: How Mario Williams can help the Bills, disrupt the AFC East.
- Look out for the Bills on the D-Line. (Nat'l Football Post)
- Matt Bowen (Nat'l Football Post) A scout's take on Landry.
- Pat Kirwan (CBS Sports) Through two-plus days,10 things we learned about free agency.
- Instant Debate (NFL.com) Which team is dropping the ball early in free agency?
- Andy Benoit (NY Times) Why receivers have ruled free agency.
- Jason La Canfora (NFL.com) Short-term deals all the rage with cap rising in future years.
- Armando Saluero (Miami Herald) Dolphins eliminated from Manning chase, Flynn visiting.
- Mike Florio (ProFooballTalk) For Stephen Ross, the big splash could end up being Tebow.
- Marc Sessler (NFL.com) Big contract, big money? Big problems.
- Wes Bunting (Nat'l Football Post) Top potential 2nd round values: Prospects with first round talent who could fall.
- Draft Chart (CBS Sports) 2012 Top NFL Draft Prospects: Wide Receiver.
- Jim Trotter (SI) NFL remaining hands off in union's investigation of bounty scandal.