The New England Patriots could wait until the NFL draft to address their remaining needs, or they could dip into the free-agent pool one last time to give themselves as much room to draft for value as possible.
If they want to pick up some under-the-radar players to fill their remaining needs, here are some names they could look at.
CB Nate Clements
The Patriots are plenty familiar with Clements, the former first-round draft choice of the Buffalo Bills who has four career interceptions against New England and this very jarring hit on Tom Brady.
The 13-year NFL veteran doesn't have all the speed he once had, but last year, he was used all over the defense at outside cornerback, slot cornerback and both safety spots.
Speaking of traits head coach Bill Belichick loves in his defensive backs, Clements is also stout against the run.
He did not play as much in 2012 as he has in previous years, but he didn't give up a single touchdown throw into his coverage, and notched an interception and six pass breakups in the process.
Even at 33 years old, it's clear Clements still has something left in the tank. If nothing else, he can provide some veteran leadership for the secondary to balance out some of the "pied-piper" element which Aqib Talib might bring to the table.
DE Israel Idonije
The names everyone has on the tip of their tongue are John Abraham and Dwight Freeney, but in the spirit of under-the-radar guys, Idonije would be a good fit.
Idonije is a more effective edge rusher than interior, but could provide a push at either spot in a pinch. He logged 10 total pressures (2 sacks, 2 hits, 6 hurries) in 125 pass-rushes at defensive tackle, and 41 pressures (7 sacks, 3 hits, 31 hurries) in 328 rushes as a defensive end. He ranked ninth in pass-rushing productivity among 4-3 defensive ends.
The most recent report from Ian Rapoport of NFL.com indicates the Bears are in competition with the 49ers for his services. Belichick loves versatile defensive linemen, and although Idonije is seen strictly as a 4-3 linemen, his versatility within that front could be enough for the Patriots to get in on the stakes.
DT Sedrick Ellis
Ellis has yet to live up to his potential, but the athletic talent is there in the former top-10 draft choice. If used correctly, he may still help a team as an interior pass-rusher.
Ellis got off to a hot start to his career, putting pressure on the quarterback 37 times (28 pressures, 5 hits, 4 sacks) and was the seventh-most productive pass-rushing defensive tackle that year. His production took a nosedive at that point, and he hasn't been the same player since.
The Patriots could be content with giving Armond Armstead a run at the job as the pass-rushing defensive tackle. If they want to spice up the competition a little, they could add Ellis, who is drawing minimal interest from other teams.
WR Brandon Lloyd
The Patriots just released Lloyd last week after failing to come to terms on a restructured contract prior to him being owed a roster bonus. There were reports from colleague Greg Bedard that he wasn't always a star student in team meetings and on the practice field.
Lloyd's agent, Tom Condon, has not been in good standing with the Patriots for awhile, and once famously proclaimed, "We pretend there are 31 franchises in the NFL now" in reference to his disdain for the Patriots. That being said, the market is not expected to be very strong for Lloyd. If he is unable to land with another team, he could be back with the Patriots at a discounted price.
G Brandon Moore
Belichick always keeps an eye on free-agents from within his division. Moore is drawing interest from three teams — the Lions, Cowboys and Dolphins — all of whom might be looking at him as a starter. Adding Moore would mean one of two things:
- moving right guard Dan Connolly to center to take over for Ryan Wendell
- a competition at right guard between Moore and Connolly
Connolly has experience playing center, and offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia said at Super Bowl XLVI that he thought Connolly could be a "very, very good center" in the NFL.
Moore has been durable throughout his career, and has not missed a start since 2004. He is well-rounded in pass-protection and as a run-blocker, but his lateral agility isn't on par with what the Patriots typically look for in their guards. Adding a free-agent guard at this point would be a luxury move more than a necessary one.
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