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Five thoughts on Day 3 of NFL free agency and how it has impacted the Patriots

03.15.12 at 4:01 pm ET
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Here are five thoughts on Day 3 of NFL free agency and how it has impacted the Patriots to this point:

1. Danny Amendola, a slot receiver who recently found a niche with the Rams, has suddenly become a hot name on the free agent market. Looked at by some as an eventual heir to Wes Welker — the 5-foot-11, 188-pound Amendola is also a Texas Tech guy who was an undrafted free agent, and struggled before finding a home — we asked our pal Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus about the comparisons between Amendola and Welker. He said they share a lot in common:

‘€œThe year to look at is 2010, when Amendola had 85 receptions from 114 targets. Like Welker, he worked almost exclusively in the slot and underneath,’€ Monson wrote. ‘€œ102 of those targets were from the slot, and Sam Bradford was able to rely on Amendola’€™s quickness and smarts in between zones to move the chains and keep the offense going.

‘€œEssentially he was Welker-lite at the time, and I think he sparked a trend in the league of teams trying to find their own version of Welker. Amendola is a very similar type of player, and he may even have slightly better hands. But I think he’€™s a little less impressive an athlete. Welker has quicks that nobody can stick with if he’€™s given long enough to make a move. Amendola relies more on exploiting holes in zones and being in the right spot, but he can be covered with top players. But in terms of price and age, he’€™s a natural heir apparent to Welker.’€

2. We’€™ve written and talked about this already, but the fact that the safety market is one of the weakest it’€™s been in years (both in free agency and in the draft) was driven home when Brandon Meriweather ended up signing with the Redskins on Thursday after taking a couple of visits. While he was never a viable option to return to New England, it takes another available name off the board in what is a rapidly deteriorating group of available bodies. If the Patriots are still looking to find a safety in free agency, there’€™s LaRon Landry and his giant arms. (Landry will apparently visit New England — is he going to be allowed to bring those biceps on the plane, or will they make him drive to Foxboro?) We have also speculated about the idea of the Patriots going after someone like Jim Leonhard, a veteran who has been banged up the last few seasons but is still regarded as a well-respected presence across the NFL.

3. One of the safeties the Patriots have also kicked the tires on is Steve Gregory, an intriguing prospect who has some positional versatility. We’€™re finding out more and more about him — he was a corner and a wide receiver at Syracuse, and caught 38 balls for 420 yards as a junior (included in those numbers is a three-catch, 53-yard contest against Boston College). It doesn’€™t mean that he will be asked to flip to the offensive side of the ball if he signs with the Patriots, but that’€™s the sort of positional versatility they like in Foxboro. In addition, as Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston has already noted, he was part of a Syracuse team that also had Matt Patricia as an offensive grad assistant — the same Matt Patricia who is now the Patriots’€™ de facto defensive coordinator.

4. The Bills’€™ signing of Mario Williams will restore some intrigue to upcoming Buffalo-Patriots games, that’€™s for sure. Williams was made the highest-paid defensive player in the league on Thursday, as the Bills signed him to a six-year deal worth close to $100 million, with roughly half of it guaranteed. The No. 1 pick in the 2006 draft had 53 sacks in six years with Houston — in two career games against the Patriots, Williams had six tackles and a sack. (In 10 career games against the AFC East, Williams has 33 tackles — 25 solo — and 7.5 sacks.) The 6-foot-6, 283-pound end will join Kyle Williams and Marcel Dareus on an improved Buffalo front. It’€™s obviously early in the process, but the arrival of Williams in Buffalo certainly has the potential to remind Patriots fans of when Aaron Schobel was coming off the edge for the Bills. Schobel made a habit of torturing the Patriots when he was in Buffalo — in 16 career games against Tom Brady, Schobel had 12 sacks, more than any other defender over that same stretch.

(The signing didn’€™t go unnoticed by another prominent AFC East defensive lineman, who Tweeted: ‘€œIt’€™s good 2 C sum1 other than a QB, SKILL or a rookie make ths type of $. Cngrts 2 Mario & bills 4 making it happen.’€)

5. On the topic of defensive linemen, Shalise Manza-Young of the Boston Globe tweeted Thursday afternoon that the Patriots have scheduled a sitdown with 27-year-old Trevor Scott. A 6-foot-5, 255-pound defensive end/outside linebacker who was taken in the sixth round of the 2008 draft out of Buffalo, his best season came in 2009 when he had 43 tackles (38 solo) and seven sacks for the Raiders. In all, he has 13.5 sacks in four seasons with Oakland, but had a torn left ACL in November 2010 that ended his year.

Read More: 2012 NFL Free Agency, Aaron Schobel, Brandon Meriweather, Danny Amendola
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