The Patriots are rarely ever big spenders in free agency — signing Adalius Thomas in 2007 marked the last time they really went all-out for a signing outside the organization — but they always seem to find cost-effective answers at positions of need.
With nearly $27 million in cap space entering the 2013 free agency period, though, the Patriots could possibly afford to be a bit more liberal with their spending.
We know Wes Welker, Aqib Talib and Sebastian Vollmer are the Patriots key free agents, but who are some players on the market that could serve the Patriots well in 2013?
Precluding any re-signings, here's my free agent wish list, in no particular order.
Defensive Tackle Chris Canty
Jets defensive tackle Mike DeVito was the original choice, but the Jets are trying to re-sign him before he hits the open market (according to ESPN).
Chris Canty played for a different New York team, but would offer the same resolution to the Patriots interior rush. The 2012 season was not kind to Canty. He missed seven games with injury, and he was released by the Giants in early February. When he played, though, he still provided an effective push up the middle, and finished with three sacks and 12 total pressures on 134 pass rush attempts (according to ProFootballFocus.com).
He has experience in both the 3-4 and the 4-3, and has already visited with several teams running both fronts. Bill Belichick will love to utilize those pass-rush skills at different spots on the line, be it as a 5-technique, 1-technique or anything in between.
Along with Kyle Love, Brandon Deaderick and Myron Pryor, Canty when healthy could provide a solid rotational option at the defensive tackle spot next to Vince Wilfork.
Wide Receiver Greg Jennings
A recent string of injuries are a red flag for Jennings, but at the right price, there's still a lot he can add to an offense.
He is a quintessential Patriots receiver: he doesn't possess an outstanding physical skill set, but he can run routes, get open, and catch the ball. He has proven he can play, and his market value may likely be at its lowest point coming off a career-low 36 receptions in 2012.
At his healthiest, Jennings has proven to be a viable deep threat for the Packers offense. He may not be the same player he was in 2009 and 2010, but he is still a solid route-runner with good hands, having dropped just seven passes over the past two years.
What's more, he said that while money plays a factor, "coaching means a lot" and "the quarterback means a lot" when it comes to which team he joins (according to USA Today). Belichick and Tom Brady fulfill those prerequisites quite nicely, and perhaps he'd be willing to forfeit a little on the paycheck to make that happen.
If his injuries weren't a sign of things to come, he could prove to be worth the money.
Safety Kenny Phillips
Patrick Chung is set to hit the open market, and although the Patriots are planning on going with McCourty and Tavon Wilson as the starting safety tandem, adding Kenny Phillips to the roster would certainly affect those plans.
When Phillips' name first crossed the screen, it was assumed he wouldn't be a target because he plays free safety, where Devin McCourty already lines up. Phillips has played all over the secondary, however, and started 11 games at strong safety in 2010. That year, the Giants ranked fourth against tight ends in coverage according to Football Outsiders. That has been an area the Patriots have struggled for years.
Like most free agents, he comes with some injury concerns, but if he checks out medically, the Patriots have the need to justify the move.
One of the Patriots biggest problems in the secondary was just a lack of consistency. They would look great at times, and out of sorts at other times. Chris Houston would provide a positive measure of predictability.
The Detroit Lions have ranked in the bottom half of the league against the pass in each of Houston's two years with the team, but that's hardly his fault. Over the past two years, he has given up just 54.4 percent completions, and has seven interceptions and 25 pass defenses. He has also allowed below a 79 passer rating into his coverage in each of those two seasons.
He has the versatility to play man or zone, slot or outside, and that would make him a great fit in the Patriots secondary.
According to the Detroit Free Press, the Lions have already made an offer to Houston, but he will test the market before agreeing to anything. If the Patriots are looking for a potential replacement to either Kyle Arrington or Aqib Talib, they might pick up the phone to talk to Houston's agent.
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