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Four final Saturday thoughts on Patriots and free agency 03.17.13 at 12:36 am ET
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Turns out the Patriots were interested in wide receiver Greg Jennings. (AP)

It turns out the Patriots were interested in wide receiver Greg Jennings. (AP)

Four Patriots-related thoughts as business comes to a close on Saturday:

Brandon Lloyd: There’s extreme makeover, and then, there’s what the Patriots are doing at wide receiver. As it stands right now, the Patriots don’t have a single receiver on the roster that caught a pass for them last season. That doesn’t mean that they won’t bring back Lloyd (who was cut Saturday afternoon) or re-sign Julian Edelman (who is still an available free agent). But right now, New England is looking at a depth chart at wide receiver that includes newcomers Donald Jones and Danny Amendola. Strange days, indeed.

Two more notes on the wide receiver position: First, as of this moment, there’s no offer sheet for Emmanuel Sanders. The receiver, who will turn 26 on Sunday, caught 44 passes for 626 yards and one touchdown in 2012 for Pittsburgh, starting seven games. In his three-year career, Sanders has 94 receptions for 1,290 yards and five TDs. And two, this little nugget showed up late Saturday night: the Patriots were initially interested in Greg Jennings. According to Bob McGinn, “According to an NFL source, the New England Patriots offered Jennings a deal averaging $6 million but didn’t get very far. Then the Patriots turned to St. Louis’ Danny Amendola as the replacement for Wes Welker.” Jennings ended up signing with the Vikings, a five-year deal valued at $47.5 million with $18 million guaranteed.

Sebastian Vollmer: The right tackle is playing the waiting game at this point — along with most of the other elite free agent offensive linemen like Jake Long and Andre Smith — as the market continues to shake itself out. The first domino that is expected to fall is Long, who is still picking and choosing after a ridiculously long visit with the Rams. After Long’s deal sets the marketplace, Vollmer should follow soon after that. If he did come back to New England (and right now, it’s my guess that he does return, eventually), the Patriots might build some playtime incentives into his deal like they apparently did with Amendola. The new receiver has incentives for staying healthy — if he plays all 16 games all five years of his contract, he’ll make an extra $500,000 a year. Vollmer, who has also struggled with injuries over the last couple of years, has been an elite tackle when healthy, but injuries have slowed him in the past (particularly in 2011). But considering the market, the Patriots were wise not to use the franchise tag (it would have been $9.7 million) on him this year.

Aqib Talib: You rarely see two sides display such astounding common sense when it comes to negotiations, but the Patriots and the veteran corner handled this situation about as well as could be expected. New England read the market perfectly in this case — it’s a depressed year for corners — and instead of panicking and slapping the franchise tag on him (particularly in the wake of Alfonzo Dennard‘s murky legal future) which would have cost them $10.7 million, they waited it out and let the market set. As for Talib, he’s betting on himself to have a top-level year, and test the market again in 2014. The Patriots get a motivated player, while Talib gets a market-value deal and one more chance to prove to the rest of the league he deserves a big payday. Both sides get a big thumbs up for this one.

Read More: Alfonzo Dennard, Andre Smith, Aqib Talib, Brandon Lloyd
NFL free agency update: WR Greg Jennings reportedly will visit Vikings 03.14.13 at 9:41 am ET
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With Wes Welker and Danny Amendola under agreement, the NFL free agent wide receiver focus is on Packers free agent Greg Jennings. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Jennings has a visit scheduled with the AFC North rival Vikings on Thursday. The Vikings have a hole after sending Percy Harvin to Seattle.

Greg Jennings

Greg Jennings

Jennings, 29, has spent all seven of his NFL seasons in Green Bay. He has 425 career receptions for 6,537 yards and 53 touchdowns. Last season he was limited to eight games due to injuries, and he had 36 catches for 366 yards and four touchdowns.

• Ravens free agent safety Ed Reed has a visit with the Texans on Thursday, according to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. The Ravens are believed to be interesting in re-signing Reed, especially after releasing safety Bernard Pollard.

• Defensive back LaRon Landry signed a reported four-year, $24 million deal with the Colts. Landry, 28, spent last season with the Jets, making the Pro Bowl after recording 100 tackles (76 solo), two interceptions and four forced fumbles in 16 games. He previously played five seasons for the Redskins, who drafted him sixth overall in 2007 out of LSU.

• The Lions lost a couple of defensive stalwarts, as tackle Sammie Hill agreed to a reported three-year, $11.4 million deal with the Titans and end Cliff Avril accepted a reported two-year, $15 million contract from the Seahawks.

Read More: Cliff Avril, Ed Reed, Greg Jennings, LaRon Landry
Jason Cole on M&M: Wes Welker is ‘only one I would even think about’ franchising 02.19.13 at 1:51 pm ET
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Yahoo! Sports writer Jason Cole talked with Mut & Merloni on Tuesday to discuss Aqib Talib and other free agent defensive backs, and potential wide receiver options for the Patriots. The Patriots have three players on whom they could place the franchise tag: Talib, Wes Welker and Sebastian Vollmer. Vollmer has had a lingering back issue, while Talib has a history of behavioral problems.

Wes Welker

Wes Welker

“Well the only one that I would even think about [franchising] would be Welker,” Cole said. “That’s if I want to pay him the $11.4 million. That’s the only guy I would think about.

“Vollmer. you just mentioned the back issue. … I think you can get him back at a fairly reasonable price if you want to get him back. Aqib, I would just never throw $10 million at Aqib Talib, guaranteed for one year. I would want to keep him, but I think he’s one of those guys who’s only going to get 7 or 8 million dollars out on the open market. … When’s the next blowup going to happen?”

If the Patriots do not retain Talib, they’ll probably look toward the free agent market.

“The market is not great,” Cole said, adding: “But you’re going to have some guys like Eric Wright out there. You’re going to have Aqib, Sean Smith, some guys who are not quite worth that franchise tag. I’ve just got to say that if I’m guaranteeing $10 million to a guy who has had behavioral issues in the past and doesn’t have the greatest amount of self-control. Aqib’s former teammates in Tampa, they’d say, ‘Look, he’s great to be around 95 percent of the time, but when that switch in his head flips, and he loses control, he’s very difficult to manage and it gets really out of control.’ ”

While Talib’s talent is undeniable, his work ethic and behavior issues have to be a red flag.

“People in Tampa said that didn’t always grind it out,” Cole said. “But there’s a certain point where if he’s playing well, how much does that really make a difference? … [Work ethic] doesn’t concern me as much as giving guaranteed money to a guy who has only shown me a short period of time that he’s turned his life around.”

Likewise, if the Patriots do not keep Welker, they might look to replace him through free agency.

“[Greg] Jennings I really like because I think he would fit exactly what [the Patriots] are trying to do. He’s really smart, he’d pick it up really quickly. Their biggest problem is they don’t have an over-the-top threat. They don’t have anybody to stretch in the field vertically. Even with [Rob] Gronkowski healthy, he’s not the kind of burner who scares any big defense. … Maybe that’s Mike Wallace, maybe it’s [Dwayne] Bowe. More likely it’s Wallace, but Bowe is also another guy; he’s had his own behavioral issues, too. But you take a chance on some of these guys.”

To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page. For more Patriots news, go to weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Aqib Talib, Greg Jennings, Jason Cole, Wes Welker
Packers say their season started to turn around with loss to the Patriots 02.02.11 at 11:15 pm ET
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Green Bay's James Jones tries to find some daylight against New England's James Sanders in the December matchup between the Packers and the Patriots. (AP)

When it came to the 2010 Packers, the turning point in their season came on the night of Dec. 19 at Gillette Stadium.

Green Bay was coming off an ugly loss to the Lions, a defeat that saw starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers get knocked out of the game with a concussion, his second of the season. The Packers also had several players limited in practice over the course of the week, a group that included linebacker Clay Matthews and cornerback Charles Woodson. Rodgers was ruled out late in the week, and an already struggling Green Bay team was given little chance at winning.

But even at less than their best — including a botched sequence late in the game that prevented them from what might have been an attempt at a game-winning touchdown — the Packers hung tough and nearly matched the Patriots. Without Rodgers, Green Bay pushed New England to the limit, but eventually fell 31-27, a loss that dropped them to 8-6 on the season.

In a game that will be remembered around New England as the night Dan Connolly delivered one of the most memorable kick returns in franchise history, for the Packers, the contest was a tribute to their depth. Green Bay — which eventually landed 16 players on injured reserve over the course of the season — got 251 yards passing from backup quarterback Matt Flynn, while other players also stepped up and made big plays at key times in the contest.

While the phrase “moral victory” is tough for players to stomach when it comes to explaining away late-season losses, the defeat to the Patriots galvanized the Packers, and showed them what they were truly capable of. If they could go on the road and almost knock off New England with a backup quarterback, well, there’s no telling what they could accomplish.

“You don’t win games off of moral victories, but you can take a lot away from them. What we took from that game was we have a lot of guys who are going to step up and fight despite of who’s playing,” Green Bay wide receiver Greg Jennings said Wednesday when asked about the December loss to the Patriots. “That is why we are here today — because of guys being able to step up and fill voids.
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Read More: aaron rodgers, Charles Woodson, Clay matthews, Greg Jennings
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