BOSTON (CBS) – The NFL lockout looks to be ending soon, so teams will have limited time to sign free agents before training camp begins.
Here is a look at the New England Patriots own free agents, and who they might re-sign for the 2011 season.
2011 Patriots Free Agents
OT Matt Light – The offensive lineman has been protecting Patriots quarterbacks since 2001 when the team drafted him 48th overall. At 33, Light is on the back-end of his career, but has been one of the leaders of the line. He wants to stay a Patriot but could command some big money, which may discourage the Pats from bringing him back.
G Logan Mankins – Along with Light, Mankins is also a free agent. A restricted free-agent before last season, Mankins was tendered by the Patriots but refused to sign, holding out for the first eight games. He returned to play the final nine games of the season and made his third Pro Bowl. The Patriots announced in February they were going to put the franchise tag on their top guard, so he will make a pretty good amount this year. But if the two sides cannot work out a contract extension, which is might be the case given last year’s events, the former first-rounder will likely be traded. Mankins could also play out this season and enter free agency next year.
RB Kevin Faulk – The 35-year running back suffered a torn ACL in Week 2 last year, missing the final 14 games. Faulk has been much more than a “third-down back” for the Patriots with the ability to both run the ball and make a catch out of the back field. It would be hard to believe Faulk playing anywhere else, but he will be 35 when the season begins and the Patriots drafted a pair of running backs in April. His leadership alone should get him back on the team, but his health and age could deter the Pats from brining him back.
RB Fred Taylor – Taylor signed a two-year deal with the Patriots in 2009 but managed to hit the field for just 13 games due to numerous injuries. The Patriots and Taylor will part ways, and the 35-year-old is not sure if he will retire or not.
RB Sammy Morris – Morris was good for the Patriots when healthy, but has been injury-plagued since New England traded for him in 2007. He played 16 games in 2010, but was used mostly as a full-back. Morris had only 20 attempts for 56 yards and no touchdowns.
RB BenJarvis Green-Ellis (RFA) – The Patriots leading rusher in 2010 is a restricted free-agent. Green-Ellis ran for 1,008 yards and 13 touchdowns last season, averaging 4.4 yards per carry. He is the first Patriot to rush for more than 1,000 yards since Corey Dillon in 2004. While the Patriots selected a pair of backs in the draft, they should look to re-sign Green-Ellis. If not, they could see if another team makes an offer and take draft picks in compensation.
DT Gerrard Warren – Despite being a late signee in 2010, Warren began the season as the Patriots starting defensive end. He did well filling in for the injured Ty Warren and likely earned himself a roster spot in 2011. He could go a long way in providing some depth on the defensive line.
S Brandon McGowan – The safety had a solid 2009 campaign, totaling 79 tackles and three forced fumbles, but suffered a chest injury last September and missed the entire 2010 season. The Patriots will likely bring him back for depth at safety, as Belichick sang high praise of McGowan in 2009.
S Josh Barrett – Barrett has never played a down for the Patriots, but will get a chance to make the team in 2011. He was placed on the injured/waived list by the Denver Broncos in August, and would have landed on their injured reserve if he was not claimed by the Patriots. It is likely New England would give him a shot this season if they went through the trouble of claiming a player they knew would not play.
S Jarrad Page – Page was acquired from the Kansas City Chiefs before last season, but never really caught on to the New England system. He played in 10 games, totaling two interceptions and 12 tackles.
K Shayne Graham – The kicker was brought in after Stephen Gostkowski went down with a torn quad. Graham was 12-for-12 in field goal attempts, but with Gostkowski saying he is ready to return, the Patriots are unlikely to need Graham’s sevices.
It’s your turn to play GM. Who should the Patriots bring back for the 2011 season and beyond, and who should they let walk? Leave your comments below.