The 2014 NFL playoffs begin today, with 32 teams whittled down to 12 that must not lose again or they will see their dreams of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy disappear. While the Patriots are one of four teams that earned a first-round bye and won’t be playing this weekend, a handful of former Patriots will suit up for their respective teams – both now and throughout the postseason. Here’s a look at some old Pats who will be performing in the NFL playoffs.
Sergio Brown (FS, Indianapolis Colts)
Patriots Tenure: 2010-11
Sergio Brown played the first two seasons of his career with the Patriots, suiting up for 26 games from 2010-11 with 48 combined tackles, one fumble recovery, and one interception.
He’s spent the past three seasons with the Colts, but his name surfaced again for Pats fans this season as the player who was “yappin’’’ so much at Rob Gronkowski that the Patriots tight end took it upon himself to “[throw] him out of the club.’’
Darius Butler (CB, Indianapolis Colts)
Patriots Tenure: 2009-10
A second round pick by the Patriots in 2009, Butler spent two seasons in New England, notching three interceptions with a runback touchdown and 35 combined tackles in his rookie year. He started the first two games for the Pats in 2010, but was benched in favor of Kyle Arrington, and was cut by the Patriots on the eve of the 2011 season.
James Ihedigbo (SS, Detroit Lions)
Patriots Tenure: 2011
The native of Amherst, Mass. and former UMass Minuteman started his career with the New York Jets for three seasons before joining the Patriots in 2011, where he started 12 games and saw time in all 16 while making 69 combined tackles. He started all three postseason games the Pats played that year, including their Super Bowl XLVI loss to the New York Giants.
Ihedigbo would play just one year with the Patriots, however, as he was cut before the start of the 2012 season and signed with the Baltimore Ravens. After two seasons in Baltimore, he found his way to Detroit, where he has played very well, recording 71 combined tackles with two sacks, four interceptions, and three forced fumbles on a strong Lions defense.
Tommy Kelly (DE, Arizona Cardinals)
Patriots Tenure: 2013
Tommy Kelly came to the Patriots in 2013 after spending the first nine years of his career with the Oakland Raiders. Kelly suited up for the first five games of the season, recording 22 combined tackles with 2.5 sacks and a fumble recovery. He was injured in the fifth game of the year, with it later being revealed he suffered a torn ACL.
Kelly was brought back for training camp this past summer, but was released after three preseason games. He later signed with the Cardinals and made some controversial comments questioning whether his former club was more worried about money or winning. He’s played all 16 games for the Cardinals this season, making 34 combined tackles with one sack.
Sterling Moore (CB, Dallas Cowboys)
Patriots Tenure: 2011-12
Moore’s chapter in Patriots history isn’t the longest, but it does include one very important play that gave the Patriots a chance to win their fourth Lombardi Trophy. In the 2011 AFC Championship game against the Ravens, Lee Evans appeared to haul in a go-ahead touchdown catch with less than a minute to play. Moore stuck with the play, however, and knocked the ball loose just before Evans got his second foot down to complete the catch. A Billy Cundiff botched field goal later, the Patriots were on their way to play in Super Bowl XLVI.
Moore totaled 14 games with the Patriots over two seasons, making 20 combined tackles with two interceptions, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. After being signed to the Pats’ practice squad midway through 2012, he signed with Dallas, where he has played ever since.
Brandon Tate (WR/KR, Cincinnati Bengals)
Patriots Tenure: 2009-10
A third round pick out of UNC in 2009, Tate saw time in two games as a kick returner in 2009 before playing 16 games for the Patriots in 2010, catching 24 passes for 432 yards and three touchdowns as a wide receiver. He was released by the Pats on Sept. 3, 2011 and signed with the Bengals shortly after, becoming a kick and punt return specialist while still seeing some offensive snaps as a receiver.
Aqib Talib (CB, Denver Broncos)
Patriots Tenure: 2012-13
Acquired by the Patriots in a 2012 midseason deal with the Buccaneers, Talib made an instant impact on the Patriots defense, playing six games and notching 19 combined tackles with an interception return for a touchdown and a fumble recovery. Talib returned to the Patriots in 2013 and continued to shine, recording four picks with a forced fumble.
A free agent after the season, Talib signed a six-year, $57 million deal with the Denver Broncos, while the Patriots went out and filled the void in their secondary with Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner.
Adam Vinatieri (K, Indianapolis Colts)
Patriots Tenure: 1996-2005
A first-ballot Patriots Hall of Famer, Vinatieri’s right cleat may be enshrined at Patriots Place as well. Spending the first 10 years of his career with the Patriots, Vinatieri etched his name into Patriots lore in 2001, as he kicked the game-tying and game-winning field goals through the snow at Foxborough Stadium in the AFC divisional round against the Raiders, then booted the title-clinching field goal in the waning seconds of Super Bowl XXXVI to give the Patriots their first ever world championship.
A winner of three Super Bowl rings with the Patriots, Vinatieri was the Pats all-time leading scorer until just three weeks ago, when he was passed by Stephen Gostkowski. The now 42-year-old left for Indianapolis after 2005, where he won a fourth ring in 2006, and has been kicking for the Colts ever since.
Wes Welker (WR, Denver Broncos)
Patriots Tenure: 2007-12
A serviceable receiver over his first three NFL seasons, Welker became a star and Tom Brady’s go-to target after joining the Patriots in 2007. Welker spent six seasons in New England, catching 672 passes for 7,459 yards and 37 touchdowns, while being named to five Pro Bowls.
His reported tension with Bill Belichick, however, may have led to a falling out with the Pats’ coach that resulted in Welker signing a two-year, $12 million contract with the Broncos in March 2013, after the Patriots reportedly offered only two years and $10 million.