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Patriot Free Agents: Re-Sign or Release

by Nick Scofield

The Patriots have spent the off-season wheeling and dealing to rebuild their roster for the 2009 season. After just missing the playoffs on the last day of the season, the Patriots have signed a number of new players, including veterans Joey Galloway and Fred Taylor on offense and Sean Springs on defense. In the meantime, the Patriots have lost Mike Vrabel, Jabar Gaffney and Heath Evans to the Chiefs, Broncos and Saints, respectively. Not content to stand by and watch other players go to other teams without a new contract offer, the Patriots have resigned James Sanders and Russ Hochstein. There are also a few other free agents that haven’t been either resigned by the team or released for another team to pickup. Let’s take a look at five free agents who played for the Patriots in 2008 and decide if they should be resigned or released.

Roosevelt Colvin: Re-Sign

Colvin was cut from the Patriots prior to the 2008 season, after a five-year stint that included great defensive play, but also a number of injuries. The New England defense will need to restock its aging defense and the linebacker corps will need the most help. Mike Vrabel and Larry Izzo are gone and Tedy Bruschi will be 36 years old at the start of the season. Jarod Mayo was an extraordinary draft pick for the Patriots this year, but he will need some help in order to support the rest of the defense. Colvin came to the Patriots late last season, starting three games and making 7 tackles. It doesn’t seem like a great season, but unless the Patriots can get another player like Jarod Mayo, Roosevelt Colvin is someone the Patriots could use.

Deltha O’Neal: Re-Sign

Second only to Ellis Hobbs on the Patriots depth chart in 2008, Deltha O’Neal is a no-brainer to keep on the roster. Last season, O’Neal gave the secondary a much-needed extra set of hands by making three interceptions. O’Neal also appeared in every game in the 2008 season and made 30 solo tackles, which is made even more impressive given the fact that O’Neal made 32 tackles all season. O’Neal is a physical presence in the secondary and with Hobbs, Brandon Meriweather, the recently re-signed James Sanders and the newly acquired Shawn Springs, should help sure up the secondary for 2009.

Junior Seau: Release

Seau only appeared in four games in the 2008 season and made just 22 tackles. At age 39 and a 19-year tour of duty in the NFL for the Chargers, Dolphins and Pats, it may be time for Seau to retire and enjoy some time off before his call to the Hall of Fame. As I said earlier, the Patriots need to be looking at a more youth-oriented defense and after this past season, it looks like Seau’s best playing days are behind him. Seau’s competitive fire may still be burning, but all the heart in the world won’t compensate for just a four game season.

Rodney Harrison: Release

It looks as if age and injuries have finally caught up with Rodney Harrison. The longtime hard-hitting captain of the secondary has suffered knee problems and had his 2008 season come to an end with a torn quadriceps muscle in his leg. Before his season-ending injury, Harrison was having a productive year with 45 tackles and an interception. Even though Harrison has been able to come back from injuries, at age 36, it could start to get harder for him and even if he does come back for 2009, how much of his physical ability will be back? It may be too much of a risk to keep Harrison around and it may be time for the Patriots to part ways with Harrison.

Pierre Woods: Re-Sign

Pierre Woods has a couple of things working for him that could make him an impact player with the Patriots for a number of years. First, he has youth on his side. He’s 27 years old and entering his fourth year in the NFL. He was also second in the Patriots depth chart behind Mike Vrabel for a starting linebacker position. Woods also shows a lot of promise. Last season, he played in 12 games, recorded 35 tackles and a sack. With Vrabel gone and with the linebacker corps needing more support now than in years past, it may be time to promote Woods to a starter and help him get some more playing time to polish his skills. The Patriots may also e thinking about trading Woods in exchange for draft picks or another player. With the way things are unfolding in the off-season for the Patriots, anything is possible.

The NFL draft is coming up next month and with it, the chance for the New England Patriots to draft a new class of great players. This is also a great opportunity for players to learn from the veterans already on the Patriots, because signing experienced players may work in the short-term, the goal of every team should be to build for the future and towards long-term success. After playing the role of general manager for now, it will be interesting to see how the rest of the offseason plays out.

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