Not-so-bold statement: free agent defensive end Jared Allen ain't comin' to New England
I thought it might have been a possibility before the free agency period began. I also thought that Julius Peppers might have been an option. And maybe DeMarcus Ware, if the Cowboys were going to cut him.
I also grouped Justin Tuck and Lamarr Woodley into this list of potential pass rushers for the Patriots
But now that both Ware (Denver) and Peppers (Green Bay) have signed their contracts, it's become clear that Allen won't get the money he's looking for with the Patriots. Ware and Peppers' contracts are for $10 million per season, which is extremely far outside of the Patriots price range- and Allen won't sign unless he receives that type of money.
So the Patriots have to look to the Tuck and Woodley tier (who should actually be viewed as better prospects than both Allen and Peppers according to Pro Football Focus), where both players signed with the Raiders on bargain deals of $5.5-$6 million per season.
Let's look at who's still available (all ages as of September 1st, 2014):
27-29: Corey Wootton (6'6, 270, Chicago, 27); Robert Ayers (6'3, 275, Denver, 28)
Wootton was a reserve for the Chicago Bears and their terrible defense in 2013. He was unable to reach the quarterback, or even generate a base level of consistency. However, he could be signed for cheap.
Ayers was a rotational player for the Denver Broncos and served well. A former first round pick, he never panned out as an elite prospect, but he provided his team with a solid player. Now that he's on the market, the Cowboys have been the only reported team to sniff around. Ayers is solid against the run and could be a valuable player to rotate with Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones; just don't expect the Patriots to enter a bidding war for him.
30-32: Anthony Spencer (6'3, 260, Dallas, 30); Jason Hunter (6'4, 270, Oakland, 31); Jared Allen (6'6, 270, Minnesota, 32)
Spencer underwent microfracture surgery and won't be ready for the start of camp. That said, he's a top player at his position and could be a great rotational player to see 700-800 snaps per season. He can stop the run and attack the pass; if Spencer wants to sign a one-year "prove it" deal, the Patriots would love to have him aboard.
Hunter grades out as the second lowest pass rushing free agent by Pro Football Focus. The Patriots probably won't even both sniffing him out, but he's out there. He's not a consistent threat against the run or the pass and tore his triceps in 2012.
Allen would be welcome, but his price tag of $10 million is clearly too high.
33+: Shaun Phillips (6'3, 255, Denver, 33); Israel Idonije (6'6, 275, Detroit, 33); Calvin Pace (6'4, 265, New York Jets, 33); James Harrison (6'0, 275, Cincinnati, 36)
Phillips just continues to play well on the field, even at his current age. He's versatile and can play in both the 3-4 and the 4-3, and he's got a continuous chip on his shoulder. He's stout against the run and can be comfortably used in sub packages on passing downs. I could see the Patriots waiting as the market keeps drying up before sending him a team friendly offer.
Idonije is coming off of a neck injury, which isn't something you really want from a 33 year old pas rusher. Still, he could prove to be a solid rotational end on the first couple of downs, and he can find a way to disrupt the pocket on passing plays. I think he's an unlikely choice.
Pace can provide a similar skill set as Phillips as he can play in both the 3-4 and the 4-3. Pace probably wants to stay in New York as Rex Ryan squeezes every bit of juice he can out of this veteran, but Pace would be another quality rotational signing. I believe Phillips can provide more snaps at a slightly higher and consistent level of play.
Harrison is clearly at the end of his career, but it's worth noting that he's on the market. Pro Football Focus shows the Bengals having used him as a strong side linebacker who was valuable against the run (4th best, right behind Dont'a Hightower) and even rated out as their ninth best overall 4-3 OLB. I just question his fit in the Patriots defense.
There are plenty of options still available, even as Jared Allen awaits a suitable offer. I don't think the Patriots will come knocking, but that won't stop Bill Belichick from offering Phillips, Ayers, or Spencer a deal to be a quality rotational player on a contender.
Worst case scenario, the Patriots bring back Andre Carter for camp (I wouldn't be surprised) and spend a top draft pick on a player like Kareem Martin( North Carolina), Will Clarke (West Virginia), James Gayle (Virginia Tech), Adrian Hubbard (Alabama), or Taylor Hart (Oregon).