- Field Yates, ESPN Insider
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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 on March 12, and we'll use this space to review them and recap their 2012 season.
Player: Kyle Arrington
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.
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.