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Possible Patriots free agent targets

July 26, 2011

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Teams can begin signing veteran free agents Friday. Here are the top five unrestricted free agents at each position, followed by the best fit in the positional class for the Patriots (ages as of Sept. 1):

QUARTERBACKS
Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks, 35; Alex Smith, 49ers, 27; Bruce Gradkowski, Raiders, 28; Drew Stanton, Lions, 27; Matt Moore, Panthers, 27.

Patriots’ best fit: None. The team only needs an undrafted free agent for camp.

RUNNING BACKS
DeAngelo Williams, Panthers, 28; Ronnie Brown, Dolphins, 29; Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants, 25; Joseph Addai, Colts, 28; Jason Snelling, Falcons, 27.

Patriots’ best fit: Ricky Williams (Dolphins). If the Patriots are looking for a healthier veteran to fill the Fred Taylor role, the former Nick Saban favorite could be it.

WIDE RECEIVER
Sidney Rice, Vikings, 25; Santonio Holmes, Jets, 27; Brad Smith, Jets, 27; Malcom Floyd, Chargers, 29; Braylon Edwards, Jets, 28.

Patriots’ best fit: Rice. If his hip is right, he’s the prototype big, stretch-the-field receiver. But he’s going to get a monster contract.

TIGHT ENDS
Zach Miller, Raiders, 25; Kevin Boss, Giants, 27; David Thomas, Saints, 28; Bo Scaife, Titans, , 30; Matt Spaeth, Steelers, 27.

Patriots’ best fit: None. Patriots don’t need any.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN
Justin Blalock, G, Falcons, 27; Harvey Dahl, G, Falcons, 30; Willie Colon, T, Steelers, 28; Tyson Clabo, G, Falcons, 29; Doug Free, T, Cowboys, 27.

Patriots’ best fit: Matt Light (Patriots). Sometimes the best signings are your own players. Light would bring continuity if he wants to be back.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN
Ray Edwards, Vikings, 26; Charles Johnson, Panthers, 25; Cullen Jenkins, Packers, 30; Aubrayo Franklin, 49ers, 31; Shaun Ellis, Jets, 34.

Patriots’ best fit: Marcus Spears (Cowboys). The 2005 first-round pick has disappointed because of where he was drafted, but he can stuff the run and is great in the locker room.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS
Barrett Ruud, Buccaneers, 28; Stephen Tulloch, Titans, 26; Paul Posluszny, Bills, 26; Kirk Morrison, Jaguars, 29; Stewart Bradley, Eagles, 27.

Patriots’ best fit: Brandon Siler (Chargers). Slim pickings in this group and not an area of need, but Siler has the Urban Meyer connection, has flashed ability at times, and is a good special teams player.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS
Manny Lawson, 49ers, 27; Matt Roth, Browns, 28; Jason Babin, Titans, 31; Mathias Kiwanuka, Giants, 28; Antwan Barnes, Chargers, 26.

Patriots’ best fit: Roth. Capable of bringing pressure in the Patriots’ system. Drafted by Bill Belichick buddy Nick Saban in Miami.

CORNERBACKS
Nnamdi Asomugha, Raiders, 30; Johnathan Joseph, Bengals, 27; Antonio Cromartie, Jets, 27; Ike Taylor, Steelers, 31; Fabian Washington, Ravens, 28.

Patriots’ best fit: None. Patriots have plenty of depth after drafting Ras-I Dowling.

SAFETY
Eric Weddle, Chargers, 26; Dawan Landry, Ravens, 28; Donte Whitner, Bills, 26; Quintin Mikell, Eagles, 30; Danieal Manning, Bears, 29.

Patriots’ best fit: Whitner. Former first-round pick is a solid, talented player. Probably won’t command a big contract.

Greg A. Bedard

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