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Recapping our free agent snapshot series 02.09.14 at 4:39 pm ET
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Here’s our complete list of free agent possibilities for the Patriots we’ve profiled so far with links to each post, complete with a snapshot as to how each might fit in Foxboro. (We’ll add to this in the upcoming week.)

Defensive lineman Michael Bennett
Defensive lineman Michael Johnson
Cornerback Brent Grimes
Defensive lineman Arthur Jones

Tight end Dennis Pitta
Wide receiver Eric Decker
Wide receiver Jacoby Jones
Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders
Wide receiver Anquan Boldin

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Free agent snapshot: Anquan Boldin 01.27.14 at 1:36 pm ET
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Anquan Boldin has distinguished himself as one of the best postseason receivers in the game over the last decade. (AP)

Anquan Boldin has distinguished himself as one of the best postseason receivers in the game over the last decade. (AP)

When free agency begins in early March, there are a handful of players across the league who could appeal to New England. Over the next two weeks — with the understanding that the status of these players could change because of the franchise or transition tag — we’€™ll look at 10 possibilities for the Patriots to consider. We have to stress that these guys aren’€™t necessarily considered the elite of the free agent class — instead, they are players we think would be a good fit in New England. We kick off the series with wide receiver Anquan Boldin.

ANQUAN BOLDIN
Position: Wide receiver
Age: 33 (will turn 34 on Oct. 3)
Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 223 pounds

The skinny: The veteran is likely near the end of a very impressive career, but clearly still has something left in the tank, as evidenced by the 85 catches for 1,179 receiving yards and seven touchdowns he had last year with San Francisco. He’€™s consistent (he’€™s never had fewer than 56 catches in a season), durable (he’€™s never played fewer than 14 games a season over the last five years) and has an excellent locker room reputation (witness this story that surfaced months after he joined the Niners). The idea of Boldin New England is something we pushed for last year, and things haven’€™t changed.

By the numbers: Per ESPN Stats & Information, Boldin has distinguished himself as an elite playoff performer: since he entered the league in 2003, Boldin’€™s four 100-plus yard receiving games are tied for first in the league during that span. His 1,033 receiving yards are second most and his eight touchdowns fourth most in that stretch.

Why it would work: Boldin is a highly-regarded veteran who would serve as something of a guiding presence for some of New England’€™s pass catchers. One of the toughest guys in the league — he broke his face a few years ago and was back in the lineup three weeks later — he wouldn’t make the Patriots receiving corps any younger, but he could serve as a leader for a relatively younger group in need of a positive role model. The Patriots would be a team that would be considered to be in the mix for a Super Bowl, which would allow Boldin to (presumably) end his career on an up note. (For what it’€™s worth, Boldin was a possibility for the Patriots as a free agent in 2010, but ended up going to the Ravens.)

Why it might not work: Money. The Patriots need to create some financial flexibility for themselves between now and the start of the new league year in March, and even if they’€™re able to do that, they still might not be inclined to spend on a veteran wide receiver, preferring instead to put their financial resources toward landing a tight end of defensive tackle, two other areas of need this offseason. It also sounds like Boldin grew very comfortable with the Niners in his first season in San Francisco — in the wake of the loss to the Seahawks in the NFC title game, he tweeted, “€œThank you 49ers fans for embracing my family and I during our first year in San Francisco. Your support this year was amazing.” First year. And honestly, the Niners would be crazy if they somehow didn’t go strong to try to retain him for 2014.

Quote:Anquan Boldin is a valuable, valuable player and every player should aspire and practice and play the game of football like Anquan Boldin. … Comes to work, goes home, comes back to work and kicks ass.”€ — Niners coach Jim Harbaugh on Boldin

Our take: From this viewpoint, Boldin would be a terrific addition to a Patriots offense that needs a world-class veteran presence who could serve as something of a role model for the younger receivers. It seems like a bit of a longshot right now, but if the Patriots could somehow find a way to make the cash work, it would make sense to try and get him on a two-year deal — nothing more — for relatively short money.

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2013 NFL Power Rankings: Pre-draft edition 04.24.13 at 10:34 am ET
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It’s that rare time of year when the 32 NFL teams are graded by what they’ve done off the field just as much as what they’ve done on it. The last time we watched football, the Ravens were crowned Super Bowl champs. Since then, the champs have lost six starters on defense and their best pass-catching weapon. The Ray Lewis-less Ravens are at No. 7.

Once the joke of the NFL, the NFC West looks to be the preeminent division in the league. The Niners take the cake at No. 1, and the upgraded Seahawks, third in our rankings, will be a formidable opponent for the defending NFC champs.

The Patriots enter the draft in need of another receiver and a pass-rusher. The departure of Wes Welker has Tom Brady and company down to No. 4.

San Francisco 49ers 1. 49ers (11-4-1) — I’d like to hear an argument against the Niners being ranked the No. 1 team. They have a ferocious defense and an offense improved by the reliable Anquan Boldin. Right now San Francisco looks like the team to beat in 2013. (Pick 31 in Round 1 of the draft)

Denver Broncos 2. Broncos (13-3) — Barring injury to Peyton Manning, the Broncos have the AFC West wrapped up. The addition of Welker will make Denver’s offense even more unstoppable. Is there a better receiving tandem in the league than Demaryius Thomas and Welker? (28)

Seattle Seahawks3. Seahawks (11-5) — After the year Seattle had followed by the offseason improvement, I’d expect nothing less than an NFC championship bid. Like many of the top teams in the NFL, Seattle is strong at defense. The D got even stronger with the addition of Cliff Avril. The Seahawks also strengthened one of their biggest weaknesses by adding Percy Harvin at receiver.

New England Patriots 4. Patriots (12-4) — Danny Amendola replacing Welker is not an upgrade. The former Rams receiver may be younger and faster, but Welker offered consistency. He stayed on the field and worked well with Brady and the offense. There will be an adjustment period. The Patriots will go into the season with three talented receiving weapons (Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Amendola), but all three are injury-prone. (29)

Green Bay Packers5. Packers (11-5) — Injuries plagued the offensive line last season. More depth on the line is important, especially with the Packers in a division where they have to playing against pass-rushers like Ndamukong Suh, Jared Allen and Julius Peppers. (26)

Read the rest of this entry »

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Agents: Wes Welker, slot receivers may be collusion victims 03.19.13 at 10:34 am ET
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Slot receivers have seen a disappointing free-agent market this offseason, and some agents suggest that collusion among NFL owners may be in play to suppress the salaries of that specific class of receivers.

Whereas outside receivers such as Mike Wallace landed a five-year, $60 million contract that includes $30 million in guarantees and Greg Jennings landed a five-year, $45 million contract with $17.8 million guaranteed, including a $10 million signing bonus, the slot guys have come up way short comparatively.

Wes Welker got $12 million guaranteed. His replacement with the Patriots, Danny Amendola, got $10 million guaranteed. And Anquan Boldin — who is set to make a base salary of $6 million in 2013 — got dealt to the Niners rather than accept a reduced contract less than two months after proving his worth as Baltimore’s best postseason receiver.

Some agents suggested to WEEI.com’s Christopher Price that the disparity is driven by more than supply and demand.

“In my opinion, it’s 100 percent collusion to reset the market and values,” said one high-profile agent. “Remember Carolina owner Jerry Richardson during the lockout saying the owners were going to take back the league? They used the worst collective bargaining agreement ever negotiated by the absolutely atrocious and corrupt NFLPA as an excuse, and decided to reset certain spots, including offensive tackle, cornerback, defensive end, defensive tackle and slot receiver.”

“The league has resolved itself to bring all salaries under control — the NFL would live to have more options in terms of markets, positions, franchise tenders and the like, but mainly they are just trying to lower all the bars to get salaries back to where they should be across the market,” added another agent. “The feeling around the league is ‘No more players who aren’t elite should be paid as elite just because they got to free agency,’ and all the teams know what everyone is willing to pay. They talk more than ever, and if you price your guy out of the market, you’re screwed.”

For more on the strange market for slot receivers this offseason, click here to read Price’s column.

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Updates on Josh Cribbs, Danny Amendola and how their situations might affect the Wes Welker sweepstakes 03.13.13 at 12:44 am ET
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Three more notes before the end of the night:

Josh Cribbs

Josh Cribbs

• The Josh Cribbs saga continues. After a report from the Cleveland Plain-Dealer at the start of the day that linked the return man to New England, a Fox Sports report later dismissed the idea, and said that Cribbs could be ticketed to the Cardinals. But late Tuesday evening, another report from Mary-Kay Cabot of the P-D indicates that Cribbs has narrowed it down to New England and Arizona. (She reports the Niners were in the mix for a bit, but have since dropped out.) Cabot is also reporting that there is interest in both sides in a trade that would send Patriots backup quarterback Ryan Mallett to the Browns. Cleveland’s new personnel chief Mike Lombardi is tight with Bill Belichick, and Lombardi has expressed his admiration for Mallett in the past on more than one occasion.

• Multiple outlets are now reporting that the market has started to narrow for slot receiver Danny Amendola, with the Ravens and Eagles in the market. Amendola, who has had a tough run of injuries as of late, caught 63 passes in 11 games in 2012, with 666 yards and three touchdowns. He also led the NFL in all purpose yards in 2010, with 689 reception yards (on 85 receptions), 452 punt return yards and 1,142 kickoff return yards. Amendola certainly makes sense from a Baltimore perspective, as the Ravens recently dealt slot receiver Anquan Boldin to the Niners for a draft pick.

• Both the Cribbs and Amendola situations would affect Welker, as New England could potentially view the younger slot receiver as a potential replacement for Welker — if Welker signs elsewhere soon (or, at least before Amendola and maybe Cribbs), the Patriots could enter into the bidding.

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NFL free agency update: Browns reportedly favorites to land DE Paul Kruger 03.12.13 at 12:00 pm ET
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The Browns are the front-runners to land Ravens free agent defensive end Paul Kruger, according to The Baltimore Sun’s Aaron Wilson.

Paul Kruger

Paul Kruger

Kruger, a 27-year-old who has played all four of his pro seasons with the Ravens, had nine sacks in 15 regular-season games last season.

Wilson also reports that another pass-rusher, Lions free agent Cliff Avril, has a “good chance” of landing with the Colts.

• Also from Wilson, the Ravens might no longer have Anquan Boldin (traded to the 49ers), but they did agree to retain a receiver Tuesday. David Reed, who missed 11 games last season while recovering from a torn ACL, has a two-year deal worth a maximum of nearly $2.5 million.

Reed, a 2010 fifth-round draft pick out of Utah, led the NFL with a 29.3-yard kickoff return average as a rookie.

• The Bears are said to have interest in Vikings offensive lineman Phil Loadholt. According to ESPN’s Tom Pelissero, the Vikings don’t want to go above $5 million per year, while the Bears are willing to make more of a commitment.

The Bears also are believed to be in the running for Dolphins free agent offensive lineman Jake Long, as are the Rams (via NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah).

• The Jets will release 34-year-old nose tackle Sione Pouha according to New York Daily News writer Manish Mehta. Pouha, who missed four games last season with back issues, signed a three-year deal last offseason. His $4.9 million salary would have become guaranteed on March 15. Instead, the Jets will pick up $3.8 million of cap space.

A third-round pick in the 2005 NFL draft out of Utah, Pouha has spent his entire pro career with the Jets.

• The Chargers reportedly have released tight end Randy McMichael, via ProFootballTalk.com. The 33-year-old was used mainly as a blocker last season, catching nine passes in 16 games.

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NFL free agency update: Ed Reed a possibility for 49ers at 10:58 am ET
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Ed Reed

Ed Reed

Safety Ed Reed might join former Ravens teammate Anquan Boldin with the 49ers, according to ProFootballTalk.com (crediting a league source). Reed just hired David Dunn of Athletes First to be his new agent, and Dunn also represents 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke.

The 49ers could lose safety Dashon Goldson, leaving them a hole that Reed could fill.

Meanwhile, Boldin, speaking from Africa where he’s on a charity mission, told ESPN that he was surprised to be traded to the 49ers, reportedly for a sixth-round draft pick.

“It was an initial shock because I had no clue that I was going to be traded,” Boldin said, adding: “It is also a good thing. … When I look at the organization and what they’re about … and as a football team, the talent that they have … I think it’s good, a good place for me to be.”

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