The Patriots have approached this free agency period like a set of dominoes. They needed one to fall before everything else would tumble away. The goal was for Darrelle Revis to be the first domino to fall, but Devin McCourty threw a wrench into the plans.
Brandon Browner is trying to find his market value, hopefully so he can fairly restructure his contract to free up cap space. Danny Amendola is another likely target for restructure. Others like Jerod Mayo, Kyle Arrington, and Nate Solder also remain possibilities for contract changes to free up cap space so the Patriots can sign Revis, as well as flesh out depth with other free agents.
Potential wide receiver target Brian Hartline has signed for $3 million per season with the Browns, after admitting he'd take less to join New England. That means the Patriots are either looking for a cheaper option, or they have other moves in mind. Look for Amendola to stick around for another season.
Former Mike Lombardi Browns
The Patriots are interested in both Sheard and defensive lineman Ahytba Rubin, as OJI reported earlier today. Both represent buy -ow players who are still in their prime, and both would fill necessary depth functions on the active roster. It might seem like the Patriots are expecting Akeem Ayers to have priced himself out of their range; it will be interesting to see what Sheard commands on the open market.
Rubin would likely take a depth spot from Alan Branch or Joe Vellano.
Devin McCourty made a couple phone calls Sunday night right after he signed his new contract, per Sirius XM NFL radio. One was Darrelle Revis. The other was Vince Wilfork. McCourty is a leader of the team and managed to talk Wilfork back into joining New England for the 2014 season. Don't put it past McCourty to bring him back for another round.
Giants are looking for a versatile RB, and to that end have shown significant interest in New England's Shane Vereen.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 10, 2015
Vereen's asking price of $3.5 million per season is still too far out of the Patriots price range and it's at a position where they don't feel like budging. Look for Vereen to earn his contract elsewhere, like with the Giants or Jaguars. Mark Ingram signed a contract worth $4 million per season, while LeSean McCoy just received a huge deal from the Bills. A team with cap space will spend it on Vereen.
According to ESPN's Vikings blog, Minnesota was a potential suitor for McCourty's services, but they tapped out once the price tag went beyond $8 million per season. That means the five times pursuing McCourty were all well beyond $8 million per season (and likely well beyond the Patriots final number of $9.5 million per season), and there might've been other teams that dropped out along the way.
The Providence Journal broke the news of New England's interest in running back Roy Helu. Helu is one of the better receiving backs in the league, notching 30 more receiving yards than Vereen in two fewer games. He's a quality runner, too, but has been stuck behind Alfred Morris in Washington so he has little tread on his tires. The Patriots are one of three teams, along with the Giants, interested in picking up Helu.
NESN reports that the Patriots have an interest in Seahawks tight end Zach Miller, who was placed on the injured reserve last season due to an ankle injury. NESN also notes that Miller is another Mike Lombardi connection, from their time together in Oakland. Miller is a dominant blocker and receiver when healthy and would be a valuable addition to the team. When he was a featured member of the Raiders offense, he strung together three seasons for 2,268 yards (average of 756 yards per season).