|02.20.12 at 11:22 pm ET|
We continue our look at 15 possible fits for the Patriots in free agency this offseason with a breakdown of wide receiver Mike Wallace. With the understanding that the NFL’s franchise tag window is from now until March 5 (which means some of these players we list could ultimately be retained by their team) here are some players worth keeping an eye on that might be a fit in New England when free agency begins March 13:
Position: Wide receiver
Weight: 199 pounds
Wallace is a restricted free agent, which would mean that depending on what sort of tender the Steelers place on the receiver, the Patriots could be forced to give up as much as a first-round draft pick. But New England had four selections in the first two rounds (including No. 27 and No. 31 overall), and would likely embrace the idea of giving up one of its two first-round choices to Pittsburgh, which is struggling with cap woes. (For what it’s worth, I would be drummed out of the media corps if I wrote a story about Wallace and didn’t include the fact that New England had the option to take him in the 2009 draft and went with Brandon Tate instead.)
You need a field stretcher? Wallace is the best option out there, even as an RFA. This past season with the Steelers, he had 72 catches for 1,193 yards and eight touchdowns, and averaged 16.6 yards per catch. He had 18 catches of 20-plus yards and was tied for third in the league with seven catches for 40 or more yards. (For perspective, Wes Welker led the Patriots in 2011 with four catches of 40-plus yards.) In two career games against New England, Wallace had 15 catches (13 of them for a first down) for 206 yards and two touchdowns.
There is historical precedent for this sort of thing happening with a receiver who has torched them in the past: We are simplifying things a bit, but Wes Welker was a restricted free agent, but the Patriots were able to pry him away from Miami for a second-round pick before the 2007 season, eventually signing him to a five-year deal.
And finally, Wallace also passes what we call the Rosevelt Colvin Test: Bill Belichick has gushed about him on several occasions, with little or no provocation. Prior to the Patriots-Steelers game in October this past year, here was Belichick on Wallace: ‘He’s a big-play receiver. He’s really fast. … Nobody is going to catch him, so you have to be careful about how much space he gets when he catches the ball. I think he’s improved a lot from when we played them last year, just as a football player, his patience and route technique.
‘He stretches the field, but he can also take a short pass and turn it into a long run, so you have to defend him from the line of scrimmage to the back of the end zone and from sideline to sideline,’ Belichick added. ‘He’s a tough guy to match up on. He’s done a good job. Obviously he’s worked hard and he’s being well-coached and he’s got a good quarterback and other good receivers to complement him. He’s part of their very productive offense.’
Why it might not work: The Steelers could tag Wallace, which would send him back to Pittsburgh at a cost of $9.4 million, at least for another year. And if the Patriots are pondering the idea of Wallace, you can be sure that there are several other teams out there who are thinking about the same thing, including division rivals like Baltimore and Cincinnati.
|02.20.12 at 5:20 pm ET|
Here’s a quick look at the NFL calendar over the next six-plus months:
Today: Teams can begin applying franchise and transition tags to players.
Feb. 22-28: NFL combine (in Indianapolis).
March 5: Deadline for teams to apply franchise and transition tags.
March 13: Free agency begins at 4 p.m.
March 25-28: NFL owners meetings (in Palm Beach).
Mid-April: Offseason programs begin (teams can hold a maximum of 10 OTAs during the offseason).
Late April: 2012 NFL schedule is announced.
April 26: First round of 2012 NFL draft.
April 27: Second and third rounds of 2012 NFL draft.
April 28: Rounds 4-7 of 2012 NFL draft.
Late July: Training camps across the league begin.
Early August: 2012 preseason begins.
Sept. 6: 2012 NFL regular season begins.
|02.20.12 at 5:10 pm ET|
We started our free-agent snapshot series last week, and here are the players we’ve profiled to this point:
We have another 10 possible free-agent possibilities in tap, but what do you think of this group so far? Which one of these guys do the Patriots have the best chance at landing in free agency?
|02.20.12 at 2:00 pm ET|
WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2012 NFL draft. Here is one is a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’s time for the Patriots to make a selection.
Position: Defensive tackle
Weight: 285 pounds
Achievements: 2010 first-team All Big 12, 2010 second-team All-American
What he brings: A hard-working end, Crick can quickly get to the quarterback because of his effort. A great run-stopper for a defensive end with the ability to shed a block on either side, he can get to the running back both in the backfield and while chasing him down. Crick is not the most explosive player, but he has a reputation as a workhorse.
Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 1-2
Notes: Crick was on the watch list for all the major defensive awards, but he missed most of the 2011 season with a torn pectoral muscle after recording 22 tackles and a sack in five games. His would be good fit for the Patriots system, where his size and speed would allow him to slide into the line almost immediately. He ranks eighth on the Nebraska career sack list with 20. Crick played alongside Ndamukong Suh in 2009 after being an understudy to Suh in 2008.
Video: Here’s Crick in a game vs. Texas A&M in 2010.
|02.20.12 at 1:15 pm ET|
Wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, who previously said that he would like to follow Josh McDaniels after playing for him in both Denver and St. Louis, continued to express an interest in the new Patriots offensive coordinator.
“I’ve been very successful in Josh’s offense,” Loyd told ProFootballTalk.com. “I admire Tom Brady. I admire what that organization has done. I admire that organization and how they run things over there. I’d definitely be interested in hearing how I could possibly fit into that equation.”
Lloyd led the NFL in 2010 with 1,448 receiving yards. In nine NFL seasons among five teams, he has 311 catches for 4,784 yards and 31 touchdowns.
He was traded from the Broncos to the Rams in October last year.
The Rams could franchise Lloyd, but there is speculation that the veteran receiver will hit the open market.
|02.20.12 at 11:41 am ET|
In the new edition of the “It Is What It Is” podcast, WEEI.com’s Christopher Price chats with former Patriots linebacker Matt Chatham, who breaks down the New England defense, with a specific look at linebackers Brandon Spikes, Rob Ninkovich and Jerod Mayo. Chatham also gives his thoughts on the Patriots’ Super Bowl loss to the Giants and where the team goes from here. Click HERE to listen.
|02.20.12 at 11:21 am ET|
Let the tagging begin.
The window to hit potential free agents with the franchise tag opens Monday and runs through March 5. While enjoying exclusive negotiating rights until free agency opens on March 13, each team has the option to choose one player with an expiring contract who will receive a one-year deal in lieu of a long-term deal or becoming a free agent.
However, under the new collective bargaining agreement, which was signed last offseason, the franchise tag rules have changed slightly. Now, a tagged player will no longer receive the average of the five highest-paid players at his position. Instead, the salary for each tagged player will be determined by a formula that factors franchise tags for the previous five years.
According to NFL.com, the numbers are down across the board. Here’s the position-by-position difference:
‘¢Quarterback: $14.4 million in 2012; down from $16.1 million in 2011
‘¢Running back: $7.7 million in 2012; down from $9.6 million in 2011
‘¢Wide receiver: $9.4 million in 2012; down from 11.4 million in 2011
‘¢Tight end: $5.4 million in 2012; down from $7.3 million in 2011
‘¢Offensive lineman: $9.4 million in 2012; down from $10.1 million in 2011
‘¢Defensive end: $10.6 million in 2012; down from $13 million in 2011
‘¢Defensive tackle: $7.9 million in 2012; down from $12.5 million in 2011
‘¢Linebacker: $8.8 million in 2012; down from $10.1 million in 2011
‘¢Cornerback: $10.6 million in 2012; down from $13.5 million in 2011
‘¢Safety: $6.2 million in 2012; down from $8.8 million in 2011
In New England, the Patriots have several key free agent decisions, including running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, wide receiver Deion Branch, offensive linemen Dan Connolly and Dan Koppen and defensive ends Andre Carter and Mark Anderson. However, the likeliest candidate for the franchise tag is wide receiver Wes Welker, who just completed a five-year deal he signed just prior to the 2077 season. Welker, who finished with 122 catches for 1,569 yards this year, maintained over the course of the 2011 season that he wanted to return to the Patriots.
‘Well, of course I want to stay here,’ Welker said when asked about his future during the season. ‘But as of right now, I don’t really think about it. I just try to focus on this year and everything I can do to help the team this year.’
‘Well, I think Wes wants to be here, and we want him here,’ said Patriots owner Robert Kraft in January. ‘He’s pretty special. Anytime there’s a player on this team I can look eye to eye and be at the same level, he’s an important guy.’
The Patriots used the tag on defensive lineman Vince Wilfork in 2010 while they were negotiating a long-term deal with the All-Pro. They eventually reached an agreement on a long-term deal, and rolled that money forward into a new contract.
History would certainly seem to favor the receiver staying in New England. In 2009, Welker changed representation, leaving Vann McElroy and aligning himself with David Dunn of Athletes First. Known primarily as an agency that reps bigger name quarterbacks ‘ Dunn hammered out a $103 million agreement between the Patriots and Drew Bledsoe back in 2000 ‘ Dunn and Athletes First have represented Patriots like Aaron Hernandez and Zoltan Mesko, and historically have had a good working relationship with New England.