Five free agents who still could be a fit in Foxboro
|04.17.13 at 10:49 am ET|
If NFL free agency is like musical chairs, a handful of notable veterans have found themselves standing off to the side this spring while the music keeps playing. In truth, these are players who now will likely have to wait until after the draft — and teams adjust their rosters — to find a landing spot. Some of them could sign in the spring, while others could be pickups shortly before or during camp. Regardless, if they could make the money work, here are five veteran free agents still on the market who might find a match in Foxboro between now and the start of the season.
Dwight Freeney/John Abraham — Honestly, these two have been linked to the Patriots so frequently over the last month, we’re just going to start referring to them as a combo platter. Veteran defensive ends (Freeney played some outside linebacker last year in Indy), they both have shown an ability to rush the passer, and if used judiciously, could have the same sort of impact that Andre Carter had in New England in 2011. The 34-year-old Abraham, who recently was cut loose by the Falcons after seven seasons in Atlanta, has spent a total of 13 seasons in the league, and the 6-foot-4, 263-pounder has at least 9.5 sacks in each of his last three seasons, and 122 sacks over the course of his career. As for Freeney, the 11-year veteran was taken in the first round by the Colts out of Syracuse in 2002. Over the course of his impressive career, the 33-year-old has 107.5 sacks, including 13.5 over the last two seasons with Indy.
Charles Woodson — The 2009 NFL Defensive Player of the Year no longer is the dynamic presence that he once was, but he still is considered a smart and savvy defensive back. No longer considered an every-down player, the 36-year-old has the positional versatility to flip back and forth between slot corner and safety. While the Patriots were able to land safety Adrian Wilson in free agency, they also could add Woodson — it certainly wouldn’t make them any younger, but it would provide another wise veteran for younger players to work with. For what it’s worth, Tom Brady remains friendly with his former Michigan teammate. In addition, Bill Belichick has been a longtime fan of Woodson, and he certainly passes the Rosevelt Colvin test — this was the Patriots coach in December 2010, talking about Woodson: “Outstanding. Outstanding. He does everything well: man-to-man coverage, zone coverage, reads the quarterback well, has good anticipation of route and route combinations, outstanding ball skills, blitzer ‘ [he’s an] excellent blitzer [and] good run-force player. When he plays inside in the slot position, or even in the perimeter, he plays very well. … I think he’s as good and complete player in that position that you’ll find in the league.’ (Plus, it would bring the Tuck Rule full circle — Woodson was the one who delivered the hit on Brady that jarred the ball loose, and he’s still a little peeved the call went the way it did.)
Laurent Robinson — The Patriots presumably are in the market for an x receiver, and Robinson could fill that bill. (He could be an option if the Patriots don’t go after a receiver in the draft. For more on some draftable possibilities at the receiver spot, check out my story here.) He also has some positional versatility, which would make him attractive to New England. The 27-year-old out of Illinois State has played for four teams in his six seasons in the league — his best year came in 2011 with the Cowboys when he caught 54 passes for 858 yards and 11 touchdowns. But after signing a five-year $32.5 million deal last offseason with the Jags, he was cut after suffering a series of concussions.
Dallas Clark — The Patriots kicked the tires on Clark last spring, but the former Colt ended up playing on a one-year deal with the Bucs, coming away with an impressive 47 catches for 435 yards and four touchdowns. Clark, who will turn 34 in June, could serve as a short-term insurance policy at tight end for New England, as Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski both have dealt with injury concerns this offseason. Clark also passes the Rosevelt Colvin test, as Belichick has raved about him in the past. “He’s a terrific player, very hard to defend,’ Belichick said of Clark a few years ago. ‘He pretty much can do everything that you would ask a tight end to do. He’s a great vertical receiver. He can get open on the short and intermediate routes. He’s a good possession receiver on third down and in the red area. He’s good after the catch. He does a good job blocking.’ (One other thing to remember — since Bill Belichick’s pal Greg Schiano took over in Tampa, the Patriots haven’t been afraid to take a chance on former Bucs players like Aqib Talib or Kellen Winslow.)