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Checking in with the five Patriots’ UFA’s who are still on the open market

06.11.12 at 1:46 pm ET
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Kevin Faulk remains a free agent, but is hoping for a return to Foxboro. (AP)

The Patriots began the offseason with 17 unrestricted free agents. Eight of the, re-signed with the Patriots (Deion Branch, Matt Slater, Wes Welker, Dan Connolly, Dan Koppen, Gerard Warren, Niko Koutouvides and Tracy White) while four others have signed elsewhere (BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Mark Anderson, Gary Guyton and Antuwan Molden). Five remain. Here’s an update on those UFA’s who played in New England in 2012 who are still on the open market:

Running back Kevin Faulk: The veteran is hoping to get a chance to return, and has said as much on several occasions this offseason. “I am training to come back and play. But it’s not up to me. It’s up to the team and everything. But I am planning on coming back, so we’ll see what happens,” said Faulk, who turned 36 earlier this month. “I’m just hoping. I’m just praying. A phone call will come, but it’s not up to me to contact them.”

Defensive end Andre Carter: The veteran defensive end, who played so well for the Patriots in his only season in New England, has been seen around the facility at Gillette on several occasions. His agent expressed optimism that Carter would return for at least one more season with the Patriots, and it certainly seems likely that New England would be the only team that the 33-year-old would return to the game for.

Defensive end Shaun Ellis: Has yet to sign, and while nothing is certain, it seems as if Ellis — who will turn 35 later this month — might be at the end of the road. He struggled in his only season with the Patriots, as he lost his job early in the 2011 season, had injury problems and never really seemed to get in a groove with New England.

Cornerback Nate Jones: While he was a quality backup for portions of the 2011 season, it appears that the Patriots are in no rush to retain his services in 2012, preferring to see what youngsters like Ras-I Dowling (and possibly Tavon Wilson) can do at defensive back going forward. If he doesn’t get picked up this offseason, Jones, who turns 30 later this week, could be a midseason pickup in New England if younger players struggle or there are injuries, there’s a chance he could return because of his overall knowledge of the system.

Safety James Ihedigbo: The 28-year-old UMass product has kind of dropped off the radar this offseason. He remains on the open market — perhaps because of the shoulder woes that he suffered last season. (It’s worth mentioning that Ihedigbo’s snaps decreased when Devin McCourty spent more time at deep safety in the regular-season finale and into the playoffs.) But if there are problems in the New England secondary in 2012 and another team doesn’t pick him up, Ihedigbo could also be a “break-glass-in-case-of-emergency” defensive back that makes a return to Foxboro if there are breakdowns somewhere along the way.

Read More: Andre Carter, James Ihedigbo, Kevin Faulk, Nate Jones
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