Free agent possibilities still exist for Patriots in TE Dustin Keller, TE Jermichael Finley, LB James Anderson
|06.02.14 at 1:36 pm ET|
Sunday marked the date that teams can sign free agents without having them count against the compensatory draft pick formula, and while things appear to be pretty well set at most positions for the Patriots, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them get involved with a few of the veteran free agents who are still on the market, particularly at tight end and linebacker. Here are four names who have been connected to New England — whether it was through workouts or other places — who could end up in Foxboro before the start of training camp next month.
Tight end Dustin Keller – The 29-year-old Keller, who suffered a nasty knee injury in the 2013 preseason while with the Dolphins, was on the shelf all last year. But the Patriots met with him in April, and while he’s met with some other teams, he remains unsigned to this point in the year. Keller has spent six seasons in the NFL, and his best season came in 2011 when he had 65 catches and 815 yards (both career highs) for the Jets. The 6-foot-2, 255-pounder has played for both the Jets and Dolphins, and if he’s healthy, could provide a boost at the tight end spot for New England while it waits on the return of Rob Gronkowski to full health.
Tight end Jermichael Finley – Finley is another veteran tight end coming off a significant injury. The former Packer suffered a spinal contusion last season and underwent neck surgery, ending his 2013 campaign. He’s been cleared to return — however, teams have been cautious regarding Finley. According to reports, the Giants and Patriots are still possibilities for the 27-year-old, who apparently met with a “mystery team” late last week. When he’s healthy, the 6-foot-5, 247-pound Finley has proven himself to be a dangerous target — between 2009 and 2012, he caught at least 55 passes in three of four years. He combined for 116 catches, 1,434 yards and 10 touchdowns. Like Keller, if he’s healthy, he could provide depth for the Patriots at tight end.
Linebacker James Anderson – The Patriots took a look at Anderson in May when he came to Foxboro for a workout. Anderson, 30, is a 6-foot-2, 235-pounder out of Virginia Tech who is known for being versatile in that he can drop into coverage (he had nine passes defensed for the Panthers in 2011 and nine sacks the last four seasons). One thing that stands out about Anderson (aside from what he brings on the field) is the fact that he’s a well-regarded veteran who has carved out a nice niche over the course of his career as a likable, intelligent player who has shown an ability to tutor younger players. Luke Kuechly basically credited Anderson as one of the main reasons he was able to become so good so quickly at this level.
Running back Ronnie Brown – Like Anderson, Brown was brought in for a workout earlier this spring, and the veteran could serve as depth this season for New England. The 32-year-old Brown has spent nine seasons in the NFL, including stints with the Chargers (2012-2013), Eagles (2011) and Dolphins (2005-10). The 6-foot, 223-pound Brown, who has struggled with injury recently, last played 16 games in 2010. He’s piled up 5,328 rushing yards over the course of his career, to go along with 38 touchdowns. While he’s no longer the every-down back used to be, he could serve as a backup plan if Stevan Ridley‘s ball security issues flare up again this season.