After the New England Patriots started the 2016 free agency period relatively inactive, the team has made some major moves in the last days, addressing needs on both offense and defense. Obviously, this team-building process is far from over and we will probably still see some additions in the upcoming days and weeks.
Could some of those additions be former members of the team? It is possible, given that six players whose contracts with the Patriots ended after 2015 are still available on the open market. Let's take a look at them:
RB LeGarrette Blount
New England's premier big back the last three years is recovering from a season-ending injury but apparently is back at 100%. If that is indeed the case, the Patriots, who have yet to really address the position during free agency, could very well bring Blount back - especially considering that the two sides have expressed mutual interest in a return.
CB Tarell Brown
Just like Blount, cornerback Tarell Brown is still unsigned and recovering from a season-ending injury. According to Jeff Howe, the Patriots are interested in bringing the 31-year old back. Given their lack of proven depth behind starting cornerbacks Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan, such a move would not come as a surprise.
WR Brandon Gibson
The 28-year old Gibson joined the Patriots last March on a one-year deal but never played a game for the team as he was placed on injured reserve in late August. Judging by one of Gibson's tweets from two weeks ago, the wide receiver will not be back with the Patriots next year.
RB Steven Jackson
After Blount's season ended because of injury, the Patriots signed the veteran free agent Jackson to a one-year deal. While he was serviceable behind a porous offensive line, it would be a surprise if the team re-signed the soon-to-be 33-year old running back.
LB Dekoda Watson
Despite Jerod Mayo announcing his retirement, the Patriots did not yet bring back 28-year old Dekoda Watson. He could be re-signed as a depth player once the offseason workout program begins but as things stand right now, New England probably does not need more than the nine linebackers already under contract.
OG Ryan Wendell
Despite being a starter on a Super Bowl-winning offensive line just one year ago, Wendell did not garner a lot of interest on the open market so far - neither from the Patriots nor anyone else. With high draft selections invested in Tre Jackson and Shaq Mason last year, as well as the addition of former top-10 pick Jonathan Cooper, the changing of the guard(s) is underway and it seems that Wendell is no part of the movement.
The six players listed above are not the only members of the 2015 Patriots still left on the open market: wide receiver Brandon LaFell and tight end Scott Chandler, both released in early March, have yet to sign with a team. In the meantime, three players who were not tendered by the Patriots also remain unsigned: wide receivers Brian Tyms and Josh Boyce as well as offensive tackle Kevin Hughes.
Thus far, the Patriots have lost two of the initially nine members of their 2016 unrestricted free agency class - defensive tackle Akiem Hicks (to the Chicago Bears) and safety Tavon Wilson (to the Detroit Lions) - while being able to re-sign special teams ace Nate Ebner on a two-year deal. It will be interesting to see if others join Ebner and return to Foxboro for another year.