Friday, February 19, 2010
New England Patriots' Free Agents: Who Should Stay and Who Should Go?
AP Photo/Charles Krupa
The Patriots are heading into a crucial offseason. After an embarrassing performance against the Baltimore Ravens in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, it was obvious that changes need to be made to the team.
Still, there are a number of free agents that the Patriots should also bring back.
The Patriots have nine unrestricted free agents and three restricted ones.
Who should be kept on to help get the team to Super Bowl XLV at the new Dallas Cowboys’ Stadium?
Who should be looking for work elsewhere?
Tully Banta-Cain, LB
Banta-Cain was the best pass-rusher the team had, finishing in the top-15 in the NFL in sacks with 9.5. Even if the Patriots get players through trade, the draft, and/or free agency, Banta-Cain has always been an asset on special teams. He was also around for two of the Patriots’ three Super Bowls in the past decade.
Leigh Bodden, CB
Let him go.
The Patriots secondary was bad and they need to completely retool, save for Pro Bowl safety Brandon Merriweather. Sure, Bodden lead the team in interceptions with five, but three of those came all in one game against Mark Sanchez.
Derrick Burgess, DE/LB
His stats were not that good. That being said, it was his first season in New England and he could have just been getting used to not only a new defensive scheme but also a new position, playing mostly at linebacker.
He is a two-time Pro-Bowler. He has the talent. With many possible departures at both linebacker and the defensive line, Burgess would be nice to have for added depth and should be more productive with a year with the Patriots under his belt.
Kevin Faulk, RB
Faulk is the ultimate team player, willing to do and take whatever role as long as he can contribute. These are the kind of guys that the Patriots dynasty was built around.
He is not a starting running back, but he is a good backup and a good locker room guy. He does a little bit of everything: runs, catches passes out of the backfield, blocks, and returns kicks and punts.
Faulk should be brought back and should be favored over the oft-injured Sammy Morris and Fred Taylor.
Jarvis Green, DE
Let him go.
For a guy that gets starts, his numbers aren’t that impressive. He registered 36 tackles and one sack in 13 games, certainly adding to the defense’s pass-rushing woes.
He has, on multiple times, stated he would like to test the market in free agency. His numbers show that there really isn’t much of a reason to stop him.
Chris Hanson, P
Let him go.
For the first time in his career, excluding his rookie season when he only punted in one game, Hanson's average yards per punt was less than 40 (39.7). It was a poor performance from him. Out of 33 punters listed on the individual stats leaders on ESPN.com, Hanson tied for last in average yards per punt.
For a team that expects to be elite, this is not acceptable.
Stephen Neal, OG
Let him go.
He’s been a mainstay on the O-line and has been a part of all three Super Bowl teams, but Neal didn’t actually play at all in the first two Super Bowl seasons.
The running game hasn’t been strong, part of which is the offensive line’s responsibility. Also, ever since the Super Bowl loss to the Giants, the Patriots line has struggled significantly.
Neal has mentioned possibly retiring, and the Patriots in the Bill Belichick era have done a very good job drafting offensive lineman. It looks like it is time to thank Neal for his services and move on.
Benjamin Watson, TE
He’s not the best pass catching tight end in the league and won’t help your fantasy team, but Brady has a good connection with him and he’s made some big catches, including getting two touchdowns in the final 2:06 of the Week One comeback against the Bills.
Stephen Gostkowski, K
Gostkowski has been under a microscope since taking over for the heroically clutch Adam Vinatieri, but he has performed admirably.
He’s been selected to one Pro Bowl, one All-Pro team, and was the NFL scoring leader in 2008.
He’s been good in the postseason too, making his first eight field goal attempts in the playoffs as a rookie, and is 9-11 in his career, while never missing a kick that cost the Patriots the game.
Logan Mankins, OG
Mankins has started every possible game of his five year career. He’s been a key member of the offensive line and is only 27. He has two Pro Bowls on his resume and there is absolutely no reason not to bring back such a reliable and productive player.
Pierre Woods, LB
Let him go.
A good special teams guy but he doesn’t really make an impact anywhere else on the field. The Patriots need to improve their pass rush and Woods does not factor into that.
The Patriots need to find improvements at linebacker and Woods would just be taking up a roster spot.
Vince Wilfork, NT
Wilfork is an elite nose tackle, a position that's crucial to the 3-4 base defense but extremely difficult to fill. The Patriots need him on defense and his backups are a significant drop off in talent.
The team is willing to put its franchise tag on him. Wilfork wants a long-term deal and is offended. The Patriots need to make this man happy.
If he leaves they will not be able to find a suitable replacement, in or out-of-house, and they need to improve their defense not lose the unit’s best player.