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February 14, 2007
No. 3 need: WRs
(Third in a series on free agency, the Patriots' needs, and who might be available on the open market)
MARKET ASSESSMENT: One of the thinnest areas in unrestricted free agency. Doesn't appear to be a pure No. 1 receiver in the mix.
PATS POSITION: The Patriots have every receiver but Troy Brown currently under contract for 2007, and Brown could still return. Adding a top target should be a priority, as the team needs a go-to option in key situations for Tom Brady, which was evident in the final two playoff games.
A look at some of the players who are scheduled for unrestricted free agency:
Drew Bennett (Tennessee) -- At 6-5, 206 pounds, figures to be the top target of many teams as he enters his prime years and has shown big-play ability. Spent first six years of his career with the Titans, and still had solid production despite changes at quarterback. Had 80 catches and 11 touchdowns in 2004, his best season. Coming off a 46-catch season.
Corey Bradford (Detroit) -- The 6-1, 201-pound Bradford enters his 10th NFL season in 2007, and appeared in nine games for the Lions in 2006. Was released at one point last season, then re-signed.
Troy Brown (New England) -- There is still some question as to whether the 35-year-old Brown wants to keep playing, but he showed he still has something to offer with a 43-catch, 4-touchdown season. Would enter his 15th season in 2007.
Kevin Curtis (St. Louis) -- The 5-11, 186-pound Curtis enters his fifth season and has shown playmaking ability, with 100 catches and 10 touchdowns over the last two years. Represented by agent Tom Condon, he is expected to receive some immediate interest in a weak market.
Andre' Davis (Buffalo) -- Played nine games for the Patriots in 2005 before signing a one-year deal with the Bills for 2006. While he hasn't emerged as a pass catcher, the 6-1, 195-pound Davis has carved out a niche as a top special teams player. He enters his sixth NFL season in 2007.
Bobby Engram (Seattle) -- Set to enter his 12th season, the 5-10, 188-pound Engram has battled injuries of late. Had 67 catches in 2005 before playing in just seven games in 2006, with 24 receptions.
Justin Gage (Chicago) -- Started 11 games and totaled 31 catches in 2005 before falling off considerably in 2006. Enters his fifth NFL season in 2007 and at 6-4, 212 pounds, is one of the larger receivers available.
Az-Zahir Hakim (San Diego) -- Set to enter his 10th NFL season, the 5-10, 185-pound Hakim has bounced around in recent years, playing for the Lions (2004), Saints (2005) and Chargers (2006) in each of the last three seasons.
Bethel Johnson (Vikings) -- Played in 11 games with two starts for the Vikings in 2006, making nine catches. Teams might find value in his kick return skills.
Dennis Northcutt (Cleveland) -- Spending the first seven years of his career with the Browns, the 5-11, 171-pound Northcutt is set to hit the market after a 22-catch, no-touchdown season. Has played in 99 career games, with 45 starts.
Donte' Stallworth (Philadelphia) -- Can void the final year of his contract. Eagles traded for him prior to the 2006 season and he proved to be one of the NFL's best offseason acquisitions, with 38 catches and five touchdowns in 12 games. The 6-foot, 196-pound Stallworth enters his sixth NFL season in 2007.
Travis Taylor (Minnesota) -- A first-round pick of the Ravens in 2000, the 6-1, 210-pound Taylor is one of the most productive pass catchers set to hit the market. Has played in 100 career games, with 90 starts. In 2006 with the Vikings, he started all 16 games, finishing with 57 catches for 651 yards and three touchdowns.
Bobby Wade (Tennessee) -- Coming off a 33-catch year and entering his fifth season, the 5-10, 190-pound Wade drew the wrath of Rodney Harrison for his low block in the season finale. Had 33 catches in 2006.
Troy Walters (Arizona) -- The 5-8, 171-pound Walters enters his eighth season in 2007. Had 23 catches and two touchdowns in 2006.
Kelley Washington (Cincinnati) -- High third-round pick in 2003 has regressed each season, and is coming off a season in which he played just five games and had nine catches. Should get a look somewhere, simply based on his physical makeup at 6-3, 218.
Alvis Whitted (Oakland) -- Played in 14 games with 13 starts in 2006, making 27 catches. The 6-foot, 185-pound Whitted enters his 10th season in 2007.
RESTRICTED MARKET: Miami's Wes Welker and Seattle's D.J. Hackett are two receivers set to become restricted free agents. If Miami or Seattle offer low tenders to those players, they would immediately become top targets for teams -- Welker (67 catches in 2006) would not require any compensation as he entered the league as an undrafted free agent, while Hackett (45 catches) would require a fifth-round pick as compensation. The Patriots currently don't have a fifth-round pick, but if they were serious about Hackett, they could attempt to acquire one.
Posted By: mreiss
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