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Playing the 'pass or sign' game for Pats

6/2/2014

Now that the calendar has turned to June, teams can sign unrestricted free agents without them counting against the compensatory draft pick formula. With this in mind, Field Yates and Mike Reiss play the "pass or sign" game for the New England Patriots:

Sign him: LB James Anderson. Many of the players still available to sign have an injury red flag or are coming off of a poor 2013 season. That's not the case with Anderson, a 30-year old that just racked up 100 tackles for the Bears last season. This isn't to suggest that he's a standout that would challenge for immediate starting duties, but given the depth concerns at linebacker, Anderson -- who has the range and instincts to defend the pass -- makes sense. He was recently in for a visit, so the Patriots have already begun doing their homework on him. -- Field Yates

Pass on him: TE Jermichael Finley. I'd contend the Patriots still need to address the tight end situation given the continued rehab of Rob Gronkowski and remaining tight ends on the roster, but Finley -- who when healthy represents exactly what this offense could use -- is too much of an injury risk at this juncture. A gifted pass catcher with open field running skills, Finley is working through a neck issue that limited him to just six games last season. While other available options at the position -- including Dustin Keller -- also have injury questions, the nature of Finley's condition represents too much uncertainty to make the investment. -- Field Yates

Sign him: TE Dustin Keller. If the medical situation with his knee checks out, and a reasonable contract agreement can be reached, this one makes too much sense. The Patriots like to be able to tap all personnel groupings, but given their current personnel at tight end, there is some question as to whether they will be able to do so. Keller is one of the top "move" tight ends on the market and he played for tight ends coach Brian Daboll in his rookie season with the Jets (2008). -- Mike Reiss

Pass on him: RB Michael Bush. After running back LeGarrette Blount signed with the Steelers in free agency, the Patriots lost their biggest player at the position and haven't tapped a veteran to fill the void while going the smaller-back route in the draft with fourth-round pick James White (5-foot-9, 204 pounds). So while Bush could potentially fill the void, and visited the Patriots before the draft, we're more intrigued with seeing what undrafted free-agent Stephen Houston (6-0, 230 pounds) might be able to do. Some backs have size but don't run big, but the initial sense is that Houston, from Indiana, combines his size with a powerful approach. -- Mike Reiss