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Free agent thoughts on Julian Edelman, Steve Smith, Brandon Browner, Jared Allen, Emmanuel Sanders

03.13.14 at 12:59 pm ET
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Julian Edelman's future could be tied up in what happens with Steve Smith. (AP)

Julian Edelman‘s future could be tied up in what happens with Steve Smith. (AP)

1. Julian Edelman‘s future could be tied to what happens with Steve Smith

The veteran Smith, who was just released Thursday morning, enters an interesting market, particularly as it relates to Edelman. There is some positional redundancy when you’re talking about Smith and Edelman, in that they are both primarily slot receivers who also have the positional versatility to line up outside. In addition, both are undersized, tough-as-nails competitors who have shown an ability to make really tough catches over the middle. The rest of their comparative resumes is a wash, at least as far as what they could draw financially: While Edelman had better numbers in 2013, is younger and has significant special teams value, Smith has shown a demonstrable ability to put up consistently good numbers over the course of a very good career, while Edelman played 16 games for the first time in 2013. (If we’re talking strictly about the length of the contract, Edelman is probably a slightly better long-term investment.) If the Ravens do go hard after Smith, that could likely take the Ravens out of the Edelman Sweepstakes. While Edelman has other options — multiple reports indicate that old friend Brian Hoyer is lobbying hard for Edelman to sign with the Browns, while the Bengals remain a possibility — the market is starting to thin out for his services. All of this doesn’t even take into account the fact that before he was released, he reportedly gave the Panthers a list of teams he’d viewed as potential trade partners: New England, Dallas, San Diego, Baltimore and Tampa Bay. When it comes to slot receivers, it’s a dynamic, fluid market at this point.

2. Brandon Browner is an intriguing possibility

According to our friend Mark Ockerbloom, the Patriots have a visit with Browner lined up for Thursday. The 29-year-old Browner, who has played the last three seasons with the Seahawks, is a 6-foot-4, 221-pound undrafted corner out of Oregon State who became a key part of the Seattle secondary over the last few years, picking off six passes in 2011. He still has to serve a four-game ban for violating the league rules on performance enhancers, but the Patriots have never been shy about going after guys like that in the past. Browner has a really intriguing skill set in that he’s a bigger corner who might be able to transition to strong safety in the New England defensive system. He played some safety when he first came into the league (before making a name for himself in the CFL), so that possibility does exist. Regardless, Browner has a visit scheduled with the Redskins for later Thursday.

3. Emmanuel Sanders and Jared Allen are still out there

Sanders, who was a potential target of the Patriots last year as a restricted free agent, figured to draw some interest this time around from New England. But to this point, the SMU product has been publicly linked to the Jags and Bucs and not the Patriots. The versatile, speedy Sanders also could be sitting down with the Dolphins in hopes of completing the Florida portion of his free agent tour. As for Allen, he appears to be one of the losers at this stage of free agency, as the defensive end saw the money that was initially earmarked for him in Denver go to Demarcus Ware. Something that could be holding up Allen’s situation is the idea that the 31-year-old could be transitioning into the next phase of his career, going from an every-down defensive end to a situational pass rusher. Of course, when that happens, you’re probably not going to get as much as you would if you were still an every-down defender. If he is able to make that move — instead of threatening to retire, as he’s already said — then the Patriots could possibly utilize him in much the same way that New England used Andre Carter in 2011 and 2013.

Read More: 2014 nfl free agency, Brandon Browner, Emmanuel Sanders, Jared Allen
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