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New England Patriots Links 2/27/12 - Patriots Positioned to Address Weaknesses

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Mike Reiss shares some quick hit thoughts from the Patriots and around the NFL.

1. When it comes to Patriots offensive tackle Matt Light and a potential retirement, I think that he is seriously considering it but has yet to come to a final decision. Light is under contract for $3.4 million next season, which is a bargain for the Patriots if he decides to return. I’m not sure Light is the type of player who would be enticed to return by a contract sweetener, but the Patriots could go that route in an attempt to persuade him if they feel he’s a key cog to have in 2012.

2. One theory floated at the NFL combine is that the Patriots’ AFC East rivals will be aggressive in targeting the safety spot aggressively this offseason. The reason: Rob Gronkowski. The league hasn’t seen that type of tight end matchup issue in some time, which puts more of a premium on finding a unique safety with the ability to hang with him.

4. With the Patriots having their top two centers (Dan Koppen & Dan Connolly) scheduled for unrestricted free agency, my sense is that they would like to lock up at least one of them before free agency begins. If they don’t, they leave themselves in a bit of a vulnerable spot.

6. Patriots defensive end Mark Anderson’s free-agent status reminds me of Tully Banta-Cain’s in the 2010 offseason. Banta-Cain had come to New England on a one-year, prove-it deal and produced 10 sacks, which helped him land a solid three-year extension in ’10. That is almost the same way it unfolded with Anderson. With teams playing more sub packages these days, Anderson is in line for a nice raise, similar to Banta-Cain.

7. If I had to sum up what coaches and scouts from around the NFL believe the Patriots need most, based on casual discussions at the combine, the answers are an outside receiver and more athletes on defense. Some feel too much pressure is placed on quarterback Tom Brady because of those deficiencies. I’d add a kickoff returner to the list.

8. Similar to trading for Deion Branch last year, which was a situation in which Branch had more value to the Patriots than the league's other teams, free-agent receiver Brandon Lloyd is in the same category this offseason. Projecting how a receiver will transition into the Patriots' system is a challenge, but since Lloyd has already done it under McDaniels in Denver and St. Louis, that should increase the team's comfort level in pursuing him. Lloyd would add a lot to the offense and he seems to want to play in New England -- if the price is right. He's leaped over Reggie Wayne as my top free-agent option for the team.

10. Barring a late change, look for running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis to make it to the open market on March 13, with the possibility of his return to New England remaining open. It appears the Patriots have set a value on Green-Ellis, and it’s not at a level that has Green-Ellis ready to sign before seeing what interest he might generate on the open market.

TEAM TALK

LOCAL LINKS

  • Christopher Price reports the Patriots are positioned to address their weaknesses, whether through the draft or free agency, and have the cap space to do it.
  • Karen Guregian thinks Janoris Jenkins is the most gifted cornerback in the draft and wonders if Belichick would take the gamble.
  • Ian Rapoport believes hard-hitting safety Mark Barron (Alabama) would fill a big need for the Patriots.
  • Mike Reiss writes the Patriots may want to take a chance on drafting an elite athlete up front who can disrupt the opposing offense through pressure.
  • Mike Reiss talks a bit about some of the top pass-rush prospects at the combine who might be of interest to the Patriots.
  • Mike Reiss says it's easy to see why the Pats have been linked to DE/OLB Whitney Mercilus (Illinois).
  • Mike Reiss posts more of his quick hits from the third day of the NFL combine: WR edition.
  • Mike Reiss follows up on a few of the 40-yard dash times of the WRs at the NFL combine.
  • Ron Borges writes Mike Wright deserved everything he got except for the way his career ended.
  • Ian Rapoport notes DL Kendall Reyes (UConn) would offer versatility to the Patriots.
  • Christopher Price reports that when it comes to wide receiver, the Patriots are at a crossroads.
  • Mike Reiss shares some quick hits from the third day of the NFL combine: The Welker & Vollmer edition.
  • DJ Bean gives us a quick look at some of the official times of receivers in whom the Pats could be interested.
  • Nate Dow lists the notable free agents available at the wide receiver and pass rusher positions.
  • Mike Reiss says need could meet opportunity for NE at the WR position in this year's draft. (1 min. video)
  • Ian Rapoport Combine Notebook: A source confirmed to the Herald that if the Patriots and Wes Welker can't agree to a deal, he will be slapped with the franchise tag and not allowed to test the market; DL Josh Chapman (Alabama) has been an under-the-radar impressive player at the Combine; Atlanta coach Mike Smith thought James Sanders was a stabilizing factor in the Falcon's secondary.
  • Ian Rapoport Patriots Notebook: WR Stephen Hill's speed catches attention in Indy; LB Shawn Loiseau (Merrimack College) is a big Patriots fan; CB Dre Kirkpatrick (Alabama) may be the draft's No. 2 CB, but he's No. 1 in confidence.
  • Steve Burton (WBZ Sports) Tom Brady spoke at Serra High’s Fund-A-Dream Scholarship Benefit in San Mateo, CA, to help raise money for local boys get the education and experience he did. Links to his speech are included.

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