(Student assistant Mike Rodak continues an early position-by-position look at free agency with the Patriots. Because free-agency rules are unclear based on the uncertain collective bargaining agreement, the 2010 rules were used to compile the information. Teams may also restrict some of these players with the franchise tag.)
POSITION: Inside linebacker
RATING THE NEED: Low
KEY CONSIDERATION: After being suspended four games to end the regular season, Spikes’ next violation of the league substance abuse policy will result in an eight-game suspension. However, if Spikes is able to stay on the field, the Patriots are as well stocked at this position as any on the field. Any added personnel will be for special teams purposes.
NOTABLE TARGETS ON MARKET: Paul Posluszny (Bills), D’Qwell Jackson (Browns), Stephen Cooper (Chargers), Takeo Spikes (49ers), Kevin Burnett (Chargers), Jameel McClain (Ravens), Kirk Morrison (Jaguars), Stephen Tulloch (Titans), Barrett Ruud (Buccaneers), Chad Greenway (Vikings)
MOST LIKELY TARGET FOR PATS: Tracy White (Patriots)
OUTLANDISH THOUGHT FOR PATS: David Harris (Jets)
WRAP IT UP: Second in special teams tackles this season, White is likely to return as a core special teams player. If he doesn’t, look for the Patriots to find a similar player on the market, one who isn’t looking for a starting job.