Nov 21, 2011; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots defensive tackle Kyle Love (74) reacts after a play in the first quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-US PRESSWIRE

Patriots Key Defensive Free Agents

The New England Patriots have 20 impending free agents from their Super Bowl squad. Among them are some key contributors to the team’s Super Bowl run. Yesterday, I went through the team’s key offensive free agents. Today, I’ll go through the team’s key defensive free agents, and whether or not they’ll be returning to New England.

DE Mark Anderson – Anderson became a big contributor in sub packages rushing the passer. He sacked the opposing QB 10 times. I can see Anderson returning if Bill Belichick decides to stick with the 4-3, though I’m not convinced of Anderson’s fit in a 3-4 if Belichick wishes to return to that defense as the base.

DE Shaun Ellis – There were some high hopes for Shaun Ellis after the Pats signed him from the Jets, but he didn’t see any significant time on the field. I don’t think he’ll be back.

DE Andre Carter – Carter is in a similar situation as Anderson. While he excelled as a pass rusher in the 4-3, a switch back to the 3-4 could make returning to New England a less attractive option, and his age isn’t in his favor as well.

DL Kyle Love – Love is an exclusive rights free agent and has become a regular contributor on the defensive line, often starting inside next to Vince Wilfork in four-man fronts. There’s no way the Pats let an ERFA who is so promising go elsewhere.

DL Gerard Warren – Warren has been a solid veteran contributor as part of the defensive line rotation, and he provides leadership in the locker room as well. He said that he wants to be back in New England, and I see no reason why that doesn’t get done.

LB Gary Guyton – Guyton was once a promising undrafted signing, but this season he went from a starter to an inactive player. Whatever happened to put him out of favor with the coaches will likely be his ticket out of New England.

S James Ihedigbo – Ihedigbo was signed to be a special teams contributor but worked his way into the defensive backfield after injuries hit the team. He became a vocal leader in the locker room for the secondary, and he should return to New England to compete in what is sure to be a revamped secondary, at least at the safety position.

S/WR Matthew Slater – I wasn’t sure whether I should put him with the offense or the defense, and eventually settled on defense. Slater’s main contributions came on special teams, where he was elected as a captain. He’ll be back.

CB Antwaun Molden – Molden was signed after being cut by the Texans during the preseason and had some significant playing time at corner. He didn’t do anything to be overly impressive but could return to complete and contribute on special teams.

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