Welcome back to another edition of our New England Patriots Roundtable! We’re just a few days away from teams being able to talk to free agents, and then shortly after that, we’ll actually get some signings. Things are starting to pick up in the NFL after a slow February. In this edition of our roundtable, we’ll be focusing on free agency, but also talk some trade rumours and who the next cut will be.
Q. Dennis Pitta might be off the market now, but the free agency tight end pool still has a number of interesting fits for the New England Patriots. Who is your personal favorite tight end left on the free agent market?
Cyrus: I like Brandon Pettigrew. He might demand a big contract, but he is definitely a talented pass catcher. It would be fun to see him paired with Gronk.
Hal: The Patriots would find great value with Buffalo tight end Scott Chandler. Big, a good receiver, a decent (not great) blocker, he could spell Gronkowski during his annual injury or line-up together for two titanic tight ends on the field who can catch the ball. He is a known quantity (Patriots see him twice a year) and won’t break the bank
J.T.: I like Brandon Pettigrew, Garrett Graham and maybe Brandon Myers. A few of the others (e.g., Finley, Keller) have had significant injury issues. Graham probably has the highest ceiling of all the remaining free agents.
Matt: Brandon Pettigrew would be my favourite left on the market. He didn’t have much production last year, but that doesn’t worry me too much. He brings a big, and rather athletic frame to the table, is a solid pass catcher, and a really good blocker, something the Patriots obviously value highly. My second choice would probably be former Jet, Dustin Keller, just to kick the tires on him.
Q. Continuing on a free agency tangent, Jimmy Graham was tagged with a two first round pick tag by the New Orleans Saints. What team do you think would be willing to give that kind of price up?
Cyrus: I honestly don’t see any team willing to sacrifice so much of their future in one player. Graham is extremely talented, but not two first round picks talented.
Hal: If I were quarterback Cam Newton I would camping outside the GM’s front office to try to convince him to give up the picks for Graham. Weaken the top division rival and give your quarterback a fantastic target. It makes too much sense.
J.T.: I don’t see anyone crazy enough to write that fat of a check and offer up valuable draft picks. Seattle would be nearly unstoppable with the addition of Graham, but still, I say nope. The options will be there for most teams come draft day.
Matt: I honestly do not think anyone will try to swipe Graham from the Saints, but some nice fits would include the Packers, a team that will need a tight end now that Jermichael Finley is most likely not coming back, and the Chiefs would also be in need of a tight end as well, and Graham could take a lot of pressure off of Jamaal Charles. But I really don’t think any team can afford to give up back-to-back first round picks for just a tight end.
Q. More free agency! With both Graham and Greg Hardy being tagged, who’s the top remaining free agents left? Would you consider this a strong or weak free agent class overall?
Cyrus: Eric Decker? Jared Allen? This free agency class is deep, but not full of star talent. Allen is someone the Pats may target, because of his experience as an edge rusher.
Hal: Free agency has weakened over the past decade simply due to teams doing a better job identifying and re-signing their own free agents. Best target available for New England is Cincinnati defensive end Michael Johnson. The Bengals failed to tag him and he will be an unrestricted free agent. He is big, knocks down passes, and gets to the quarterback. Signing him makes too much sense as Chandler Jones can move inside on passing downs or Rob Ninkovich can move back to linebacker on third down as well.
J.T.: Overall, I would say this free agent class is relatively weak, especially when you take a look at the depth of the upcoming draft class. The cornerback position has some depth to it and if the Patriots cannot find a way to keep Talib around, there could be a few options there. Same goes for the receiver situation with Edelman/Amendola. If either or both of those guys are dealt, the Patriots could make a move for someone like Hakeem Nicks, Emmanuel Sanders or James Jones.
Matt: I’d say the best remaining free agents are Jairus Byrd, Alex Mack and Michael Johnson. Byrd was the number two guy behind Hardy for pretty much everyone, and it looks like him and the Bills are having serious troubles coming together on a contract. I think defensively this is a really solid class, loaded with numerous pass rushers, and some good depth at cornerback and at safety as well. Offensively, it leaves a lot to be desired with Eric Decker being the big prize.
Q. Steven Gregory was the surprising first cut for the New England Patriots. Who are the Patriots next two cuts and why?
Cyrus: Isaac Sopoaga, and Adrian Wilson are two guys that will probably get the ax in the near future. Both are costing the Pats a lot of money, and they haven’t done much on the field to deserve it.
Hal: No surprise here. Invisible nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga is next. Then comes injured and aging safety Adrian Wilson. Those two will clear about $4 million. Wilfork and Mankins are likely safe from being cut, but expect restructurings at the minimum or an extension for Wilfork.
J.T.: Brandon Spikes is all but a lock to be released and I’ll go with Isaac Sopoaga as the other. The Patriots have been known to unload some surprises over the years, so it wouldn’t come as a complete shock to see Wilfork become a salary cap casualty.
Matt: I think the next two cuts have to be Isaac Sopoaga and Adrian Wilson. Sopoaga is an easy cut just because he couldn’t find a place in the lineup, and has over two million dollars on his contract that could be better spent somewhere else. As for Wilson, it really saddens me that he wasn’t able to work out. He should’ve been great next to McCourty as a physical stopper, but obviously just didn’t fit well during the preseason, and couldn’t stay healthy either.
Q. Rumor time: PFT recently came out with a piece saying the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos were trying to get Darrelle Revis from the Tampa Bay Bucs. Is it worth it grab Revis? Or are you happy sticking with Aqib Talib?
Cyrus: If possible, adding Revis would be awesome. But I doubt it will happen. Re-signing Talib is much more likely.
Hal: Go big or go home: Sign Talib and then trade for Revis (OK, pipe dream for sure). I would LOVE to see Revis, but he is looking to break the bank. The Patriots are not going to pay ANYONE more than #12. Revis would be the best short-term pickup (this year and next) to make a run. Unfortunately, the Patriots are more likely to re-sign Talib.
J.T.: Wouldn’t it be incredible if the Pats could have BOTH Revis AND Talib?! Ah, a fan can dream. I’m happy with Talib, so long as he can stay healthy. The last thing I want to see is for New England to sign him to a fat contract and have him be hurt for a significant period of time.
Matt: I feel like if the Patriots think Talib is slipping away from them, then they should really try to go after Revis. Revis was the unquestioned best cornerback in football for years, before some injuries and an irrelevant Bucs team took away a lot of his lustre. To me it would be worth it just to stick it to the Jets, but Talib still needs to be the number one priority.