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February 15, 2007
No. 4 need: Safety
(Fourth in a series on free agency, the Patriots' needs, and who might be available on the open market)
MARKET ASSESSMENT: This is a position with a mix of longtime veterans and younger players entering their prime years. There is no shortage of starting experience.
PATS POSITION: Last year, the Patriots stocked the roster with safeties to bolster special teams and guard against injury concerns. The team was hit hard at the position anyway. Starters Rodney Harrison and Eugene Wilson, who are coming off injuries, are both under contract, as are top backups Artrell Hawkins, James Sanders, Tebucky Jones and Mel Mitchell. Still, the team figures to add at least one player at the position, and could add more if it plays Wilson more at cornerback.
A look at some of the players who are scheduled for unrestricted free agency:
Jay Bellamy (New Orleans) -- Spending his first seven years in Seattle and the last six in New Orleans, the 5-11, 200-pound Bellamy is nearing the end of a solid career.
Colin Branch (Carolina) -- The 5-11, 205-pound Branch enters his fifth season and has some starting experience in 2004 and 2006, with 19 starts over those two years.
Deon Grant (Jacksonville) -- One of the most established and durable safeties available, the 6-2, 210-pound Grant enters his eighth season and hasn't missed a game or a start since 2001. Has 18 career interceptions in 96 career regular-season games with Carolina (2000-2003) and Jacksonville (2004-2006).
Robert Griffith (Arizona) -- Entering his 14th season in 2007, the 6-0, 202-pound Griffith has been a 16-game starter in each of the last four years. Turns 37 in November.
Ken Hamlin (Seattle) -- The 6-2, 209-pound Hamlin entered the league as a second-round pick in 2003. Teams will be curious about head injuries he suffered in an off-field incident in 2005. Returned to start 16 games in 2006.
Terrence Holt (Detroit) -- Patriots fans might remember him from the hit he put on rookie running back Laurence Maroney in 2006, which knocked Maroney out of the game. The 6-2, 208-pound Holt enters his fifth NFL season and has been a starter the last two years after entering the league as a high fifth-round pick in 2003 out of North Carolina State.
Todd Johnson (Chicago) -- The 6-1, 200-pound Johnson has played in 42 career games, with 18 starts. He entered the league in 2003 as a fourth-round draft choice out of Florida.
Kevin Kaesviharn (Cincinnati) -- At 6-1, 196 pounds, Kaesviharn enters his seventh NFL season in 2007. He spent the last six seasons with the Bengals and started 23 of 32 games over the last two years. Patriots fans might remember him from a heavy hit on Reche Caldwell in 2006.
Michael Lewis (Philadelphia) -- The 6-1, 222-pound Lewis was bumped from the Eagles' starting lineup in 2006, but should draw interest based on his starting experience and the fact he enters his sixth NFL season. Entered the league as a low second-round draft choice in 2002.
Tony Parrish (Dallas) -- The 5-11, 210-pound Parrish has played for Chicago (1998-2001), San Francisco (2002-2005) and Dallas (2006). After playing in all 16 games in each of the first seven years of his career, has appeared in 19 games over the last two seasons.
Brian Russell (Cleveland) -- After three years in Minnesota (2002-2004) and two in Cleveland (2005-2006), the 6-2, 207-pound Russell hits the market as one of the most experienced players available in their prime years. He's played in 76 of a possible 80 games over the last five years, working as a starter since 2003.
Gerome Sapp (Baltimore) -- Enters his fifth NFL season in 2007. The 6-1, 216-pound Sapp has primarily been a backup/special teams type.
Lance Schulters (Atlanta) -- The 6-2, 202-pound Schulters was a midseason pickup of the Falcons in 2006, playing in seven games, mostly as a reserve. If he lands with another team in 2007, it would mark his 10th NFL season.
Travares Tillman (Miami) -- Has starting experience from the last two seasons with the Dolphins, although he was bumped from the lineup after seven games in 2006. The 6-1, 205-pound Tillman enters his seventh NFL season and has had stints in Buffalo, Carolina and Miami.
Shaun Williams (Carolina) -- Has been limited to 22 games over the last three seasons. Spent the first eight years of his career with the Giants before signing with the Panthers for 2006. The 6-2, 218-pound Williams appeared in 12 games last season.
Tank Williams (Minnesota) -- Missed the 2006 season with a fractured knee. The 6-2, 223-pound Williams spent the first four years of his career with the Titans before signing with the Vikings last season.
RECEIVER FOLLOW-UP: In a follow-up to Wednesday's update on possible free agent options at receiver, this piece in the Philadelphia Daily News includes comments from Donte' Stallworth -- made on a television show -- about the possibility of signing in New England.
Posted By: mreiss
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