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'Final Eight' rules could hurt Patriots

ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton touches on a topic that could have a significant trickle-down effect on the Patriots: Free-agency rules and if they are similar to the rules of 2010. Specifically, Clayton highlights "Final Eight" rules.

Clayton explains what that means: "In an uncapped year, the top eight finishers from the previous season are handcuffed in free agency: The four teams that played in the title games can sign a free agent only if they lose a free agent, and the four teams that lost in the divisional round of the playoffs can sign a player at a modest cost, roughly $3.8 million in the first year."

The Patriots, by virtue of their 14-2 finish and No. 1 seed in the AFC, were a "Final Eight" team in 2010.

So if the "Final Eight" rules are ultimately adopted, it will limit the team's ability to sign free agents, making it harder for Bill Belichick and Co., to fill voids on the roster.

The "Final Eight" rules will be something to watch closely from a Patriots perspective in the coming weeks and months.