The final piece on the lead-in to free agency highlights the wide receiver position, a position that grew in need when Wes Welker went down the last week of the regular season. With Welker likely to be out to start the season and no proven target to take his place, the Patriots are likely to target the WR position in the draft and in free agency, at least for a veteran presence. Remember, even with Welker, the Patriots had no reliable third target. Unfortunately, the best of the best are restricted free agents.
Patriots Hitting the Free Agent Market: None
Top 5 Wide Receivers on the Free Agent Market
1. Brandon Marshall (RFA – first-round tender)
2. Miles Austin (RFA – first- and third-round tender)
3. Vincent Jackson (RFA – first- and third-round tender)
4. Nate Burleson (UFA)
5. Malcom Floyd (RFA – first- and third-round tender)
As you can see, the cream of the crop is locked up with high RFA tenders. The value for any team, especially the Patriots, will come in the middle class of the free agent market. The only possible target from here would be Burleson, who is a good #2 WR and can return kicks and punts very well.
Possible Patriots: Josh Reed (UFA), Derrick Mason (UFA), Laveranues Coles (UFA), Chris Chambers (UFA), Antonio Bryant (UFA)
Reed and Bryant may be victims of poor QB play and could be poised to be solid contributors in a new setting. The Patriots are familiar with Coles and Chambers from their time in the AFC East and could provide solid depth. Chambers, if properly motivated, may develop into a #2 behind Randy Moss. The Patriots tried to sign Mason a couple of years ago but he elected to stay in Baltimore. It’s possible they could take another shot at bringing him in to add a solid veteran presence.
Sleeper: A trade for Anquan Boldin.
The Cardinals are reportedly not asking much for a player of his caliber- a 3rd round pick. The Pats don’t currently have one but could try and swing a deal for one, or use one of their three #2’s if a bidding war starts. The hard part of this deal is signing Boldin to a long-term deal he would be happy with, which is easier said than done. I’m not saying this trade is likely, but don’t go to sleep on it.
That about wraps up the countdown. I will be up a little after midnight to see if any Patriots-related signings occur. Stay tuned!