Free agency is a mere 3 days away, and I’m counting down the best players available (sort of) with a slant to the Patriots. Yesterday, I posted a piece on the linebacker position, which you the readers voted as the #1 need this offseason. The #2 need, voted by you, is the defensive line position. Off this list is Julius Peppers and Aaron Kampman, who I included yesterday because they project as OLB in the Patriots’ 3-4 defense. Unfortunately, most of the best players available have been tagged as franchise players. They are still available, however, for an expensive price.
Patriots Hitting the Free Agent Market: DE Jarvis Green (UFA) and NT Vince Wilfork (UFA)
Vince Wilfork has been tagged by the Patriots as their franchise player and I don’t see him going anywhere this season. The Pats seem intent on keeping him around and want to get a deal done ASAP, as the rest of their free agent plans rest on what the numbers of Wilfork’s deal play out to be. Jarvis Green is likely to see if he can get a bigger deal elsewhere, and may get one from Cleveland or Denver. I wouldn’t rule out his return to New England if he can’t find what he’s looking for out on the open market.
Top 5 Defensive Linemen on the Free Agent Market
1. NT Vince Wilfork (UFA)* has been franchised
2. DE Adewale Ogunleye (UFA)
3. DE Dwan Edwards (UFA)
4. DT Aubrayo Franklin (UFA)* has been franchised
5. DE Marcus Spears (RFA)
Wilfork and Franklin are virtually off the market due to the franchise tag. Ogunleye is a familiar player to the Patriots from his time in Miami and could serve as a pass rusher. Dwan Edwards has been overshadowed in Baltimore but is a great player. He has an added attraction to the Patriots because of his 3-4 experience, as does Marcus Spears from Dallas. However, Spears is a restricted free agent and is likely to be tendered at too high a price for the Patriots. This list was very hard to put together, and there are players you could make a case about being left off and you could certainly argue the ranking.
Possible Patriots: DE Dwan Edwards, DE Vonnie Holliday, DT Jason Ferguson, DE Marques Douglas, DT Fred Robbins
Sleeper: DE Le Kevin Smith (RFA)
I could see the Patriots being serious contenders for Edwards if he doesn’t re-sign with Baltimore. Holliday, Ferguson, and Douglas are all veterans that could come at a reasonable price and have 3-4 experience. Fred Robbins is an underrated defensive tackle from the Giants who is versatile for a tackle. The Patriots traded Le Kevin Smith to Denver last year and I can see the re-trading a late-round pick for the DE if they don’t feel they have anybody else on the roster. He has experience in the Patriots system and has starting experience now from Denver.
For a full list of defensive linemen free agents (minus players who get cut and Casey Hampton, who re-sign with Pittsburgh), click here.
Tomorrow, we’ll look at the available corners, which I would rate higher than the need for defensive linemen (provided Wilfork doesn’t go anywhere).