The frenzy that is NFL free agency has slowly died down a little as we have all turned our attention to the upcoming NFL draft (and/or the Boston Red Sox). Teams – including the New England Patriots – have made their major moves; free agency headlines get sparser each and every day.
Yet, many players remain unsigned. Among them, four, who spent the 2014 season with the Super Bowl champion Patriots. Let's take a look at them and find out whom we can expect back in New England.
LS Danny Aiken
Aiken, who had been with the Patriots since 2011, remains unsigned. Thus far, no news about him having any talks or scheduled visits have surfaced.
New England has re-signed former offseason member Tyler Ott in March, but he is the only long snapper currently employed by the team (if we do not count linebacker/back-up long snapper Rob Ninkovich). Therefore, if would come as no surprise if Aiken ultimately returns to the Patriots to compete for the long snapper spot.
OG Dan Connolly
Last year, Connolly was a team captain and started all 16 games he appeared in (including all three postseason contests). Yet, he still remains a free agent due to the facts that he is about to turn 33 in September and that he had an up-and-down 2014 season.
The eight-year veteran visited the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who employ former Patriots front office members Jason Licht and Jon Robinson, last week but apparently left without a contract. Thus, we might see Connolly's free agency period end like Ryan Wendell's last year: he might re-sign with New England on a minimum deal to offer leadership and camp competition.
Or he simply retires.
WR Greg Orton
Orton spent his 2014 campaign on injured reserve after tearing his Achilles tendon in training camp. After the end of the season, the Patriots held exclusive negotiation rights. However, the team did not offer him a tender sheet, making him an unrestricted free agent.
Unsurprisingly, there have been no reports about Orton re-joining the Patriots as the team re-signed fellow exclusive rights free agent Brian Tyms, while also adding wide receivers Brandon Gibson and Kevin Dorsey.
RB Stevan Ridley
Ridley spent the first four years of his professional career in Foxboro, after the team invested a 2011 third-round pick in the former LSU running back. He rushed for 3059 yards and 25 touchdowns in New England but ended his 2014 campaign – the last one of his rookie deal – on injured reserve with a torn ACL.
Free agency started slow for the 26-year old, who is still in rehabilitation mode. As of late, however, Ridley has been busier, visiting both the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins last week. Per ESPN's Mike Reiss, he will also visit the Washington Redskins today.
Ridley is exploring the free agency market, most likely with the goal of signing a one-year prove-it deal. It remains to be seen if he ultimately returns to the Patriots – a team, with a known commodity at the top (LeGarrette Blount) but with question marks further down the running back depth chart. Thus, the team could use Ridley. If Ridley could use the Patriots as well depends on his visits and his willingness to potentially share snaps with Blount and others.