The countdown continues today with the cornerback position in focus. You, the readers, voted corner as the #3 need for the Pats in the Musket Fire poll, with linebacker and defensive line coming in at #1 and #2, respectively. I would personally rate corner higher than defensive line, especially if Leigh Bodden is not re-signed. The cupboards are kinda bare in the free agent market due to many of the big names being restricted free agents. I am curious to see if teams are more willing to try and pry away restricted free agents this year due to the high volume and in some cases lower-than-expected tender offers.
Patriots Hitting the Free Agent Market: Leigh Bodden (UFA)
Leigh Bodden was the Patriots’ best cornerback last year, tying for the team lead with 5 interceptions. He was very solid in coverage which has to be considered even more impressive due to the lack of a pass rush. Bodden will hit the open market but from what I’m hearing, the Patriots are remaining active in trying to retain his services. One of the problems for the Pats is getting the numbers for Wilfork set so they can see what they have left in their self-imposed salary cap budget for other free agents. Behind Bodden, the Patriots do not have any other clear cut starters. Darius Butler showed promise in his rookie year, Shawn Springs is getting old and didn’t play a full 16-game season, and Jonathon Wilhite and Terrence Wheatley have been less-than-impressive. The only other player on the roster is Kyle Arrington, and he’s primarily a special teams player.
Top 5 Corners on the Free Agent Market
1. Dunta Robinson (UFA)
2. Carlos Rogers (RFA)
3. Leigh Bodden (UFA)
4. Richard Marshall (RFA)
5. Marlin Jackson (RFA)
Dunta Robinson is the most solid corner available and likely will be too pricey for the Patriots due to the small amount of corners on the market, raising his value. Rogers, Marshall, and Jackson are all likely to be hard to pry from their respective teams. Even if the Patriots come with an offer sheet, the “home team” will likely match the offer. That being said, the RFA with the highest possibility of being signed is Richard Marshall from Carolina. Carolina only tendered him at the second round pick level, meaning the Pats would only have to give up one of their 3 second round picks to get him. Due to money issues, Carolina may not be able to match a strong offer sheet and he could be had. Leigh Bodden, I feel, remains priority #1 for the Patriots. They can then add to the position in the draft and through lower tier free agents for depth.
Possible Patriots: Deshea Townsend (UFA), Will Allen (UFA)
Sleeper: Benny Sapp (UFA)
Townsend and Allen are reliable veterans that could add depth to the secondary. The Patriots tried to sign Townsend in 2006, so it is possible they will give him another go, though this time probably not for a starting role. Benny Sapp did well filling in for Antoine Winfield in Minnesota when Winfield was injured and has the size the Pats typically look for in corners (under 6 ft.) due to their fluid motion in coverage.
For a full list of free agent corners, click here.
Tomorrow I’ll take a look at the wide receiver position, including trade possibilities that are starting to bubble up. Free agency starts at midnight tomorrow night and I’ll be up for a little while to see if there are any big early signings that affect the Patriots, be it the team making a signing or a major player that fits a team need coming off the market.