(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: Wide receiver
RATING THE NEED: Low
KEY CONSIDERATION: Welker enters the final year of his contract, making an extension a possible priority for the Patriots this summer. Branch turns 32 in July and has a lengthy injury history. Both players will surely remain in 2011, but does the team view Tate, Edelman, and Price as sufficient replacements in the future, or do they look for another target for quarterback Tom Brady?
NOTABLE TARGETS ON MARKET: Braylon Edwards (Jets), Vincent Jackson (Chargers), Sidney Rice (Vikings), Brad Smith (Jets), Steve Smith (Giants), Santonio Holmes (Jets), Santana Moss (Redskins), Terrell Owens (Bengals), Mike Sims-Walker (Jaguars), Randy Moss (Titans), James Jones (Packers), Lance Moore (Saints), Jacoby Jones (Texans)
MOST LIKELY TARGET FOR PATS: B. Smith
SLEEPER POSSIBILITY FOR PATS: Donte’ Stallworth (Ravens)
OUTLANDISH THOUGHT FOR PATS: Moss, Owens
WRAP IT UP: Both Tate and Edelman have provided sparks on special teams, but neither has yet to make much of an impact on the offensive phase of the game. Still, look for the Patriots to make re-signing Welker the top priority before any free-agent addition.