New England Patriots: Beyond the Big 3

Beyond the Big 3: Trevor Scott

March, 12, 2013
3/12/13
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Much of the attention around pending Patriots free agents has been paid to Wes Welker, Aqib Talib and Sebastian Vollmer, three of the team's critical starters. But the Patriots have a number of other free agents who could hit the open market later today, and we'll use this space to review them and recap their 2012 season.

Player: Trevor Scott

Position: Defensive end

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Should the Patriots re-sign Trevor Scott if the deal it would take is two years, $2.25 million?

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    56%
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    44%

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Key 2012 stats: 14 games played, 2 starts, 14 tackles, 3 sacks

Playing time (defense): 252 of 1,112 (22.7 percent; fourth among Patriots defensive ends)

2012 season recap: Scott was signed on a low-risk, one-year deal last offseason and proved to be a worthy pickup. He was a part of the Patriots' defensive end rotation and a key special teams contributor. His spot start in Week 13 against Miami resulted in two critical sacks, and he showed again that he has natural pass-rush skills. The team ultimately relied more heavily on rookie Justin Francis down the stretch, though Scott did play 17 of 72 defensive snaps in the AFC Championship game.

Outlook: Scott probably did enough in limited defensive opportunities to spark the interest of teams elsewhere around the league. While he probably won't be viewed as a starting option on another team, he is capable of playing more snaps in a 4-3 scheme than he did for the Patriots last season.

Projection: Not re-signed; lands a two-year, $2.25 million deal elsewhere. The feeling here is that while the Patriots might be interested in bringing Scott back for another season, they'll likely scour the defensive-end free-agent market for a higher-impact pass rusher. Ultimately, Scott will wind up with more security on a two-year deal elsewhere.

Beyond the Big 3: Marquice Cole

March, 11, 2013
3/11/13
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Much of the attention around pending Patriots free agents has been paid to Wes Welker, Aqib Talib and Sebastian Vollmer, three of the team's critical starters. But the Patriots have a number of other free agents who could hit the open market on March 12, and we'll use this space to review them and recap their 2012 season.

Player: Marquice Cole

Position: Defensive back

Key 2012 stats: 14 games played, 1 start, 17 tackles

Playing time (defense): 197 of 1,112 (17.7 percent)

2012 season recap: Cole began the year as primarily a core special teams player, but injuries and struggles in the secondary led to more defensive action for him. After an injury to Aqib Talib in the AFC Championship game, Cole was inserted as a nickel back, but had some struggles keeping up with the bigger, more physical Anquan Boldin. He was very good on special teams as a coverage player and a popular veteran among the defensive backs.

Outlook: Cole was signed last offseason by the Patriots after the Jets opted not to tender him as a restricted free agent. There's no reason to think the team wouldn't like him back as a special teams contributor who provides depth on the back end of the secondary depth chart.

Projection: Re-signed for 1-year, $950,000. The feeling on Cole is much the same as it was on linebacker Tracy White: He's an inexpensive, under-the-radar piece of the roster that the team values. He'd be expected to play another big role on special teams in 2013.

Beyond the Big 3: Tracy White

March, 10, 2013
3/10/13
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Tracy WhiteMelina Vastola/US Presswire
Much of the attention around pending Patriots free agents has been paid to Wes Welker, Aqib Talib and Sebastian Vollmer, three of the team's critical starters. But the Patriots have a number of other free agents who could hit the open market on March 12, and we'll use this space to review them and recap their 2012 season.

Player: Tracy White

Position: Linebacker

Key 2012 stats: 11 games played, 1 start, 11 tackles

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Should the Patriots re-sign Tracy White if what it would take is a 1-year, $950,000 deal?

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    74%
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    26%

Discuss (Total votes: 3,706)

Playing time (defense): 71 of 1,112 snaps (6.4 percent)

2012 season recap: White's role in 2012 was what he has made a living off of in the NFL: being a core special teams player with good movement skills in open space to play as a coverage player on kickoffs and punts. He played a minimal defensive role in sub packages, but his greatest value is rooted in his special teams contributions.

Outlook: White is the kind of free agent that won't draw much attention publicly but has value to many teams. Core special teams players are important to identify, and White has enough ability to be a spot-duty defensive contributor as well. He's a well-respected veteran that seems like a good fit in New England.

Projection: Re-signed for 1-year, $950,000. He's an under-the-radar contributor, but the Patriots have always valued special teamers. White could come back on a deal similar to the one he signed last offseason and make 2014 his fourth with the Patriots.

Beyond the Big 3: Deion Branch

March, 9, 2013
3/09/13
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Much of the attention around pending Patriots free agents has been paid to Wes Welker, Aqib Talib and Sebastian Vollmer, three of the team's critical starters. But the Patriots have a number of other free agents who could hit the open market on March 12, and we'll use this space to review them and recap their 2012 season.

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Should the Patriots re-sign Deion Branch if what it would take is 1 year, $1 million deal?

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    57%
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    43%

Discuss (Total votes: 5,195)

Player: Deion Branch

Position: Wide receiver

Key 2012 stats: 10 games played, 4 starts; 16 catches, 145 yards

Playing time (offense): 482 of 1,240 (38.9 percent; third most among WR's)

2012 season recap: Branch bounced back and forth from the roster in 2012, twice being released and ultimately re-signed. The dependable veteran said that he had other suitors following each release, but ultimately chose to return to the team he's had his most success with. With Julian Edelman down, Branch finished the season as the team's third receiver, a smaller role than that which he held in 2011. He had just 16 catches in 2012 and did not score a touchdown for the first time in his career. Branch's physical skills are not what they once were, though his extensive knowledge of the offense and trust with Tom Brady made him a viable fill-in target.

[+] EnlargeDeion Branch
Rob Tringali/Getty ImagesDeion Branch averaged just 9.1 yards per catch last season.
Outlook: At 33, Branch is nearing the end of his career, but he didn't suggest that retirement was imminent at any point last season, so he's likely to look for work in 2013 and beyond. In 2011 he finished with 51 catches, a sign that he has the physical skills to continue to be productive in the NFL. His production in 2012 diminished in part due to his role, health and the focus of the Patriots offense, which featured a diverse set of targets for Brady to throw to. He stressed last season the importance of his family when making the decision to return to the Patriots on two occasions, so it appears that for him to sign with another team it would have to be with a franchise located in a place that seeing his family during the season is still practical.

Projection: Re-signed on a 1-year, $1 million deal. The Patriots have a need at wide receiver, as Brandon Lloyd is the only established receiver (excluding special teams ace Matthew Slater) on the roster entering free agency. Branch knows the offense, is a strong locker room presence and can help mentor any young receivers the Patriots may add this offseason. He'll likely have to fight for a 53-man roster spot come the regular season, but bringing him back on a modest contract would be a low-risk maneuver for the team.

Beyond the Big 3: Donald Thomas

March, 8, 2013
3/08/13
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Donald ThomasHoward Smith/US PresswireDonald Thomas proved last season that he can be a starter on a quality offensive line.
Much of the attention around pending Patriots free agents has been paid to Wes Welker, Aqib Talib and Sebastian Vollmer, three of the team's critical starters. But the Patriots have a number of other free agents who could hit the open market on March 12, and we'll use this space to review them and recap their 2012 season.

Player: Donald Thomas

Position: Guard

Key 2012 stats: 16 games played, 7 starts

Playing time (offense): 606 of 1,240 (48.9 percent)

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Should the Patriots re-sign Donald Thomas if the deal it would take is 4 years, $14 million?

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    60%
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    40%

Discuss (Total votes: 3,621)

2012 season recap: Thomas was one of the unheralded contributors to the Patriots in 2012, stepping in as an injury substitute and playing at a very effective level. Standout guard Logan Mankins missed six games, during which Thomas proved himself to be a starting-caliber guard at the NFL level. He's developed nicely during his two seasons with the Patriots, and is capable in both the running game and passing game. He plays with good power, is athletic enough to handle interior slant pressures, and is a cerebral lineman who understands protection concepts. Last season was his best year as a pro.

Outlook: The 2012 season proved what the Patriots perhaps already knew about Thomas -- that he can play as a starter on a quality offensive line. He has very good value to the Patriots as the team's top reserve interior lineman (he even worked at center during the preseason), and he has good football ahead of him at the age of 27. The questions are how much the team can afford to pay a player at a position where they already have resources committed to a pair of starters, and if Thomas will seek a full-time starting gig elsewhere. One would think the Patriots surely want him back after his performance last season.

Projection: Not re-signed; lands a four-year deal worth up to $14 million elsewhere. There are enough teams with a need at guard to think that Thomas will likely land the opportunity to start somewhere and be paid handsomely as a result of it. The Patriots and offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia have done tremendous work in developing young linemen, and losing Thomas would turn the attention to players such as Marcus Cannon and Nick McDonald, who each could be in line for more snaps in 2013.

Beyond the Big 3: Patrick Chung

March, 7, 2013
3/07/13
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Patrick ChungStew Milne/USA TODAY SportsWhere will Patrick Chung land in free agency?
Much of the attention around pending Patriots free agents has been paid to Wes Welker, Aqib Talib and Sebastian Vollmer, three of the team's critical starters. But the Patriots have a number of other free agents who could hit the open market on March 12, and we'll use this space to review them and recap their 2012 season.

Player: Patrick Chung

Position: Safety

Key 2012 stats: 12 games played, 8 starts, 44 tackles, 2 interceptions

Playing time (defense): 536 of 1,112 (48.2 percent)

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Should the Patriots re-sign Patrick Chung if the deal it would take is 3 years, $12 million?

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    15%
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    85%

Discuss (Total votes: 5,205)

2012 season recap: Chung began the season as a starter, but injuries and ineffective play pushed him down the depth chart, as he played just two defensive snaps in the AFC Championship Game. The issues for Chung appeared to be as a deep half-field defender, as he was unable to get to the sideline on deep throws down the field, and he also missed some critical open-field tackles due to poor angles. He had his best performance of the season in registering two interceptions against Jacksonville in Week 16. He has been a physical defender in previous seasons for the Patriots, but that style of play was not as prevalent in 2012.

Outlook: It seems like Chung's days in New England are over, as he effectively became the fourth safety on the depth chart by the end of last season. The Patriots have Devin McCourty as a starter at one safety and both Steve Gregory and Tavon Wilson to compete for the other spot. For Chung, he still offers value to a team in the right situation, perhaps as a starter. He is a good proactive athlete with a willingness to defend the run and good ball skills. Keys for him will be staying healthy and being a disciplined tackler in space.

Projection: Not re-signed; lands a three-year deal elsewhere worth up to $12 million. Gregory was brought aboard last offseason on a three-year deal that pays him up to $7.5 million. Chung has superior physical skills to Gregory and is just 25, making him an intriguing prospect for a team in need of secondary help. A change of scenery could help Chung become the player he showed himself capable of being earlier in his career.

Beyond the Big 3: Kyle Arrington

March, 6, 2013
3/06/13
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[+] EnlargeKyle Arrington
AP Photo/Paul JasienskiCount on at least one team banking on getting the 2011 version of Kyle Arrington instead of the guy that showed up in 2012.
Much of the attention around pending Patriots free agent has been paid to Wes Welker, Aqib Talib and Sebastian Vollmer, three of the team's critical starters. But the Patriots have a number of other free agents who could hit the open market on March 12, and we'll use this space to review them and recap their 2012 season.

Player: Kyle Arrington

Position: Cornerback

Key 2012 stats: 16 games played, 12 starts, 74 tackles, 1 forced fumble

Playing time (defense): 838 of 1,112 (75.4 percent)

2012 season recap: After beginning the season as a starter, Arrington fell down the depth chart to become the Patriots' nickel cornerback. He didn't manage a single interception after tying for the NFL-lead with 7 in 2011, although he was once again solid as a run defender, notching 74 tackles. Arrington had some struggles on the perimeter as an outside cornerback, though he finished the season with a respectable performance when Aqib Talib went down in the AFC Championship game. Alfonzo Dennard and Talib finished the season as starters after Devin McCourty was pushed to safety and Arrington struggled.

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Should the Patriots re-sign Kyle Arrington if the deal it would take is 3 years, $15 million?

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    16%
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    84%

Discuss (Total votes: 4,324)

Outlook: Arrington probably hoped for a stronger season leading into free agency, as his 2011 performance would have likely landed him a nice pay-day on the open market. Cornerbacks are typically a coveted commodity in free agency, and Arrington may be seeking a starting role and starting cornerback money. For the Patriots, cornerback is a major area of need this offseason, although Talib is likely a higher priority to re-sign than Arrington. If the team views him as a starting slot cornerback with special-teams value on the core groups rather than a base defense starter, Arrington may take more money if it presents itself elsewhere.

Projection: Not re-signed; lands a three-year deal elsewhere worth up to $15 million. Ultimately, look for another team to give Arrington an offer too good to refuse. Cornerback Aaron Ross earned a three-year contract for up to $15.3 million last offseason from the Jaguars, and that seems like a reasonable barometer for Arrington this offseason. If a team believes it is getting the 2011 version of Arrington, it will consider this a good deal for a starting-level corner.

Beyond the Big 3: Danny Woodhead

March, 5, 2013
3/05/13
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[+] EnlargeDanny Woodhead
Mitch Stringer/US PresswireDanny Woodhead's versatility and veteran leadership in the Patriots' young backfield are among his assets.
Much of the attention around pending Patriots free agent has been paid to Wes Welker, Aqib Talib and Sebastian Vollmer, three of the team's critical starters. But the Patriots have a number of other free agents who could hit the open market one week from today, and we'll use this space to review them and recap their 2012 season.

Player: Danny Woodhead

Position: Running back

Key 2012 stats: 76 rushes, 301 yards (4.0 avg.), 4 TDs; 40 rec., 446 yards, 3 TDs

Playing time (offense): 423 of 1,240 snaps (34.1 percent, 2nd most among Patriots RBs)

2012 season recap: When it comes to Woodhead, the best word to describe his game is reliable, as that's what he was once again for the Patriots in 2012. Perhaps the team's most complete back, Woodhead was often called upon when the team pushed the tempo on offense. He's a capable runner, receiver and pass protector, with good vision and instincts to identify pressure. He had standout games against San Francisco and the Patriots' second matchup against Buffalo, and he became the veteran presence among a young running back group. He played in every game, starting two.

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Should the Patriots re-sign Woodhead if the deal it would take is 2 years, $6 million?

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    79%
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    21%

Discuss (Total votes: 5,507)

Outlook: The Patriots have four young running backs who project to have roles on the 53-man roster next season: workhorse Stevan Ridley, 2011 second-round pick Shane Vereen, 2012 undrafted revelation Brandon Bolden and Jeff Demps, a speedster who could emerge as a kick returner. Of that group, Vereen's game most closely mirrors what Woodhead brings to the table, with Vereen being the superior athlete but not as polished a player as Woodhead. If the Patriots feel Vereen is ready to take on a more prominent role (he played less than 13 percent of the offensive snaps last year), Woodhead could test the open market. Ultimately, his value and leadership may be too good to pass up.

Projection: Re-signed by the Patriots; two years, $6 million. We'll use the contract that free agent BenJarvus Green-Ellis signed with the Bengals last offseason as a barometer of sorts. The "Law Firm" got three years and $9 million after serving as a predominant first- and second-down back for the Patriots. Woodhead's annual average mirrors Green-Ellis' in this scenario, but the Patriots keep the deal at two years because of their stable of young backs who are still developing on the roster.

Beyond the Big 3: Julian Edelman

March, 4, 2013
3/04/13
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Much of the attention around pending Patriots free agent has been paid to Wes Welker, Aqib Talib and Sebastian Vollmer, three of the team's critical starters. But the Patriots have a number of other free agents who could hit the open market one week from tomorrow, and we'll use this space to review them and recap their 2012 season.

[+] EnlargeEdelman
Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY SportsJulian Edelman had 21 catches for 235 yards and three touchdowns in an injury-shortened 2012 season.
Player: Julian Edelman

Position: Wide receiver/punt returner

Key 2012 stats: 21 catches, 235 yards, 3 TD's; 17 punt returns, 15.5 avg, 1 TD

Playing time (offense): 299 of 1,240 snaps (24.1 percent)

2012 season recap: There was a point early in the season when it appeared that Edelman was set to play a large role within the Patriots offense, as he was taking snaps from Wes Welker as one of the Patriots' top two receivers. A Week 3 hand injury put Edelman on the sideline for a few games, and by the time he returned Welker had settled back into a full-time role that wasn't going to be reduced. Edelman had a sensational training camp, is an elite open-field runner and is the only player in the NFL to return at least one punt for a touchdown in each of the past three seasons. He finished the season on injured reserve after breaking his foot, and durability has been an issue for him in four seasons. He's considered one of the hardest workers on the team and has come a long way in four seasons.

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Should the Patriots re-sign Edelman if the deal it would take is 3 years, $10 million?

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    77%
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    23%

Discuss (Total votes: 6,055)

Outlook: Bringing Edelman back would give the Patriots their top punt returner and a developing receiving option. If Welker is not back and Edelman is re-signed, he'd likely absorb some of the slot responsibilities that Welker has held because of his open-field running ability. He's a valuable core special teams player as well, which could make him an attractive free agent on the open market. If Welker is re-signed, Edelman may be inclined to look for an opportunity to be a full-time starter with a receiver-needy team elsewhere.

Projection: Re-signed by the Patriots for 3 years, $10 million. It was just last offseason that the Patriots secured Brandon Lloyd for three years and $12 million, and while Edelman has the edge on Lloyd in terms of youth and versatility, he has less of a track record of production. Receiver is a position of need this offseason, and if Edelman stays on his arc of improvement, he'll emerge as a dependable target for Tom Brady.

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