The Patriots have made some big moves by acquiring Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco, while releasing big names like Ty Warren and Alge Crumpler. The team still has their top three draft picks to draw under contract and, with some help from NEPatriotsDraft.com and PatsCap.com, I've come to the conclusion that the Patriots should have around $4m left of cap space once the rookies are signed. With the release of Anthony Leonard and Ryan Coulson, I believe that the Patriots have two extra roster spaces out of the maximum 90. This means, and I'm jumping to a conclusion here, that the Patriots will spend a maximum of $4m on a maximum of two players. (Keep in mind that the further release of players can alter the remaining cap space).
As a result, let's look at some potential players the Patriots could pick up with their remaining cap space.
Safeties - Keep in mind that the safety the Patriots pick up will have to be a hybrid safety; they won't be a pure run stuffer or pure cover player. Most likely, if they acquire a safety, they will have to be Pat Chung's back-up.
1) Jarrad Page, New England Patriots - Page is my favorite and he has proven that he can be a valuable player on the Patriots' defense. He's not as great in run defense as Chung, but he's an excellent coverage safety.
2) Donte Whitner, Buffalo Bills - A strong safety who has shown interest in playing for the Patriots. He's a great run stopper, but he's a liability in coverage.
3) Michael Huff, Oakland Raiders - Could be out of the Patriots' price range, but Huff is one of the better safety free agents. He's a free safety and is great against coverage, but he's no slouch against the run.
4) Dashon Goldson, San Francisco 49ers - Goldson is like Whitner; he's a strong run stopper with lots of room for improvement against the pass.
5) Brodney Pool, New York Jets - Pool is another target that is more of a free safety. Pool is great in coverage and can help against the run.
Thoughts: Out of the safeties, I feel that Page, Whitner and Goldson have the greatest chances, with Page and Whitner in the front. Page would be the ideal for the fourth safety spot due to his physicality against the run, as well as his above-average coverage skills.
Outside Linebackers - The Patriots will be running a hybrid defense this year, so they'll need outside linebackers who can either drop back and play OLB in both the 4-3 and the 3-4, or they'll need players who can step up and play OLB in the 3-4 and DE in the 4-3.
1) Matt Roth, Cleveland Browns - Roth would be an ideal rush player as a 3-4 OLB or a 4-3 DE. He can generate pressure at all times and, if used in the Patriots' rotation, should remain effective all season. His price tag is right in the range.
2) Manny Lawson, San Francisco 49ers - Lawson is great in the pass rush and more than capable in the run defense. He can play OLB in both base defenses. Only drawback is that his price tag may be a little high.
3) Derrick Harvey, Jacksonville Jaguars - Harvey is a huge bust from the Jaguars, but he's a University of Florida player. Belichick will have the low down. He possesses ideal size to be an OLB in the 3-4 and a DE in the 4-3 so perhaps Harvey could be the next Bust project. Harvey should have little demand and could be given a 1-year camp contract.
4) Jamaal Anderson, Atlanta Falcons - Anderson would be a heavy player in the Patriots' defense and might even be asked to play DE in the 3-4 base. He's a monster against the run and, should he bulk up, he could be an effective player as a 3-4 DE. Or, if he slims down, he could be helpful in as an OLB and DE. Anderson's price could be a question mark.
Thoughts: I really like the thought of Roth to the Patriots. He's perfect for the hybrid defense and he fills the role of pass rusher very nicely. Lawson is a nice thought, but I don't see him in a Patriots' uniform. Harvey would be an interesting project as a last resort and I don't see Anderson joining a hybrid defense.
Offensive Line - The Patriots could use some additional camp bodies on the offensive line as they search for improved depth and maybe even a starter at Right Guard.
1) Matt Light, T, New England Patriots - Light could almost be seen as a "must-sign" due to the inexperience in the Patriots' tackle depth, as well as the fact that Solder still hasn't made his way to camp. Light should be offered a fair contract for a couple seasons. However, the question is "how much?"
2) Justin Blalock, G, Atlanta Falcons - Blalock is a very good guard who is above-average at everything. That makes him a very valuable prospect for the Patriots' offensive line. However, he's another high demand prospect who could be out of the Patriots' price range.
3) Samson Satele, C/G, Oakland Raiders - Satele is a name you might not expect, but he's a solid, if not unspectacular, player who could benefit from moving to guard. He's not great at much, but he's a solid player and he's shown he can play guard in college. He's definitely within the Patriots' price range and he has versatility as a multi-position player.
Thoughts: Light is definitely a player the Patriots should bring back to camp. Blalock would be an excellent addition, but he'd be more of a luxury player. Satele could add value as a depth player, but I believe he could find a starting role and more money with a different team.
If the Patriots have around $4m in cap space, then they can probably sign only one of these top players without cutting any of the others. My dream additions would be Jarrad Page, Matt Roth, and Matt Light, but that would involve the release of an additional player currently on the roster.
Matt Light had a contract for $4.5m last season and could command a $4m/year contract for the two/three year offer the Patriots give. That would eat up most of the remaining cap space.
Matt Roth could command a contract anywhere between $2m/year and $5m/year, depending on the desperation of the offering team. I see the Patriots going no higher than $3m/year with Roth.
Jarrad Page would require a contract around $2m/year. He's a solid player and could definitely be brought back with the current cap space.
All this said, I believe that the final two roster spots are for Matt Light and Jarrad Page. Normally, I'd say that this is a boring prediction so it's most likely correct; however, this off-season has been full of surprises. I'm just going to cross my fingers and hope for the best of what's left on the market. I believe that Light and Page have positions on the roster where the can be definite contributors and where they won't hurt the growth of players currently on the roster.
I wouldn't be surprised if the Patriots are done making splashes in the market. The pre-season has started- it's back to serving up Humble Pie.