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Potential Patriots: Carl Nicks

02.11.11 at 1:16 am ET
By

Carl Nicks (AP)

Despite the looming labor uncertainty, as free agency approaches, WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that could be available to the Patriots in free agency this offseason.

Carl Nicks
Position: Guard
Team: New Orleans
Height: 6-foot-5
Weight: 341
Age: 25

Why the Patriots would be interested: Odds are good the Patriots will lose at least one of their starting guards, either to free agency or trade (Logan Mankins) or retirement (Stephen Neal). If he isn’t franchised, Nicks figures to be targeted by New England as a possible replacement. According to Pro Football Focus, he yielded only four quarterback sacks in 2010, and was durable enough to play every one of New Orleans’ 1,216 offensive snaps over the course of the season. And while teammate and fellow guard Jahri Evans got a big payday last offseason from the Saints, Nicks could provide great value for New England at the position.

Why it would happen: As previously stated, the Patriots are likely going to lose one of their starting guards — maybe both of them — and while Dan Connolly played well in relief of both Mankins and Neal over the course of the 2010 season, there’s some question about his ability to be a long-term starter. (Some believe he’s better suited to the role of Russ Hochstein — a versatile and important backup who can play multiple positions along the offensive line.)

In the wake of last year’s payday they delivered to Evans, the Saints seem unlikely to tie up so much money in their guards. In addition, the Saints have some other contractual questions about some other spots on their offensive line (Jermon Bushrod, Jonathan Goodwin). If New Orleans is hesitant about paying Nicks, or if it turns its focus to another one of its 27 potential free agents with three or more years of experience, that could open the door for New England.

Why it won’t happen: The Saints face some serious questions when it comes to the franchise tag, and the possibility exists that they’d tag Nicks. In addition, historically, the Patriots have never dug deep in their pockets to pay interior linemen, preferring instead to develop them internally (usually finding them as draftees or street free agents like Damien Woody, Joe Andruzzi, and to some extent, Hochstein) and let them leave.

Chances: Fair. While the Patriots now appear to be set in franchising Mankins, if the franchise tag does stick (and there’s still a question about that) and he’s not traded after being franchised (also a possibility), then the Patriots could approach Nicks about serving as Neal’s replacement. Regardless, the possibility of Nicks in a New England uniform is almost assuredly tied up in what happens to both Mankins and/or Neal.

Some possible alternatives: Daryn Colledge (Green Bay), Harvey Dahl (Atlanta), Ryan Kalil (Carolina), Davin Joseph (Tampa Bay).

Read More: Carl Nicks, Damien Woody, Dan Connolly, Daryn Colledge
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