Who Will New England Resign?
Wes Welker has had been one of the NFL’s most productive receivers over the last 6 seasons. Welker has accumulated incredible statistics including, five 100 catch seasons and 7,459 yards, while only missing 3 regular season games in his career in New England. Welker’s unique skill set that fits the Patriots scheme perfectly and to top it off he’s a true locker room leader who follows the “Patriot Way” with all his heart. Unfortunately for Welker many other teams consider him a “system type player”, meaning he would not be as good outside of the Patriots offensive scheme, so in essence this significantly lowers his market value. In addition, he is nearing 33 years old and one may question how many years he has left in the tank. The Patriots organization would undoubtedly love to have Welker back for another two or three years but the question is, at what price? The Franchise tag doesn’t seem to be an option anymore considering the price would be 11.4 million for the 2013 season. The Patriots and Welker have had contract disputes in the past but New England has never gone so far as to let Welker taste free agency but it seems to be heading in that direction this offseason. The Patriots will be curious about how other teams view their prized receiver; and if the interest isn’t there Welker will be headed back to New England, on somewhat of a discount with a new contract in hand. A team that should show a lot of interest will be the Denver Broncos who have cap room and are looking for an upgrade to Stokley, who is a poor man’s Welker.
Acquired hours before the 2012 trade deadline, Talib changed the New England secondary for the better. His impressive cover skills are undeniable and his newfound attitude toward the sport is intriguing (yet questionable). Is it captivating enough for a team to offer him number 1 cornerback money? Possibly… But what I do know for certain is the Patriots will not use the franchise tag on him, considering it will probably be around 10 million, and because of their concerns with his work ethic, a long term deal is out of the question, unless of course its for the right price. So unless a miraculous agreement is configured before free agency begins, Talib will test the market. Teams who may be interested could include the Saints, Redskins, Vikings, Colts, or the Eagles who all need help in their secondary, but are probably not looking to add any more “head cases” to their rosters. Talib may not get the interest he is looking for in the open market. The interest is certainly there from the Patriots perspective but to a limited extent. New England has wasted an astonishing number of early round picks in search for a corner back of Talib’s caliber and now since they have found one, they will be somewhat reluctant to let him go. Expect the Patriots to make a one or two-year incentive labeled contract offer to Talib but nothing longer. Talib’s future in New England will most likely depend on the interest he receives from other teams around the league.
Vollmer has a very interesting situation. In some circles he may be considered one of the premier right tackles in the NFL. His 6 foot 8 320 pound frame along with the fact that he is only 28 years old should make him a top priority for New England. Protecting Brady is the number one priority and New England has always stood by that. But there are intriguing debates arising about Vollmer’s actual value to Brady’s protection. For example, the stats do show that when Vollmer has missed time the next man up, usually Marcus Cannon, did not shown to much of a drop off. This mysterious statistic creates two unclear questions… Do the patriots have enough depth on the roster already to replace Vollmer without a big drop off? Does the offensive line really deserve the credit for only allowing 27 sacks in 2012 or does Tom Brady and the Patriot’s unique, quick route offense deserve most of the praise? These questions will be processed by the front office and debated many times. If history teaches us anything we should know that, based on the Logan Mankins contract situation, New England does not undervalue its o-line because they did end up paying him like a top guard in the NFL. The top Right Tackles make around 5-6.5 million dollars a year and those numbers aren’t incredibly unreasonable. I actually do see the Patriots extending Vollmer with a 3-4 year deal for around 15-20 million dollars.
Last season Arrington was arguably the worst cornerback on the Patriots roster. He is incapable of either playing man or zone and is not the best tackler either. He does do one thing rather well though; he strives on special teams and playing out of the slot. We all know how Belichick feels about the importance of special teams but at what costs? Last offseason Mathew Slater, the special teams captain, signed a new 3 year deal worth 5.4 million dollars: a big deal considering he plays only a handful of snaps at WR every season. But contrary to Arrington, Slater dominates the field on punts and kickoffs and may be considered the best player at his position. Arrington is certainly not a pro bowl special teamer and probably shouldn’t be any teams second cornerback. He may have had 7 interceptions in 2010 but based on film many of the interceptions seem to be that he was lucky and not something that could be repeated again in his career. Arrington may get resigned this offseason but expect a big pay cut from is 2.4 million he earned last season, maybe a veterans minimum, and hopefully, for New England’s sake, a decrease in defensive snaps.
106 total offensive touches for 747 combined yards and 7 touchdowns while playing only 34 percent of snaps. Those were Danny Woodhead’s statistics for the 2012 season. He had a very efficiently productive season as both a runner and receiver. He is also a great blocker even at the small size of 5’ 8” 200 pounds. Woodhead is a do it all back, also playing a special teams role with the New England. These are the types of players Belichick almost always rewards in the offseason. Though there is still one thing standing in his way of a new contract in New England and that is the 2011-second round pick Shane Vereen. Vereen came on late but showed he was just as or even more explosive than quick footed Woodhead. It would seem Vereen is in line for an increased role in the Patriots offense next season but that still doesn’t rule out Woodhead’s return. Even with Vereen coming on strong late, New England will most likely make a strong attempt to resign their do everything back at a modest amount. There’s always a chance other pursuers offer a Ben Jarvis Green Ellis type contract and in that case Woodhead would not be in Foxboro next season.
Edelman has consistently improved at wide receiver every season since he entered the league as a 7th round quarterback from Kent State in 2009. He showed flashes this season and it seemed like McDaniels, Patriots offensive coordinator, wanted to make Edelman a key part of the offense in 2012. Though injuries did derail his season and have been a problem throughout his career, New England still views Edelman as a productive receiver and a hard worker. Therefore New England will offer him a respectable 3 year contract this offseason. He is young, understands the offense, wont be expensive, and Brady really talks highly of him so I don’t think there is any question he will be in a New England patriots jersey in 2013 and beyond.
Branch this past season started to take, more or less, the same role Kevin Faulk took before his retirement this offseason. This role consists of a player getting cut quite a few times throughout the season but at no point is he considering signing with another team. I see Branch, with his limited 2012 production, taking this role once again in 2013 while playing for a veteran’s minimum.
Entering the 2012 season Chung seemed to be the only reliable player on New England’s secondary but had to prove he could stay healthy for an entire season. He was coming off an injury-plagued 2011 campaign where he only played 8 games and was never really able to reach his full potential. With a new contract on the line, there was hope throughout Patriot Nation that 2012 would be the season where Chung finally reached his true potential and became a elite NFL safety. This never happened and it wasn’t caused by more injuries either. The flashes of brilliance Chung showed the season before were gone, and he ended up losing his starting job to Devin McCourty half way through the season. All of the facts point to Chung wearing a different jersey entering the 2013 season, and who knows maybe a change of scenery will do him some good.