COMMENTARY | The New England Patriots should take a good hard look at what is left in free agency. Though the bulk of activity is long gone, there are still some quality players on the market.
In order of likelihood (from the least likely to most likely) here's a list of guys the Patriots may have some interest in signing:
Ray Edwards, DE (ATL Falcons) - Edwards is on this list strictly because his talent is so intriguing. It wasn't that long ago that Edwards was widely considered one of the best up-and-coming edge rushers in the game. But after some injury concerns and a pair of disappointing seasons with the Falcons, his hype has all but fizzled out.
This would be a typical low-risk/high-reward signing for the Patriots. Character concerns aside, if things panned out, having another young, lengthy, and explosive defensive end with plenty of NFL experience opposite Chandler Jones would be an incredible addition.
Amobi Okoye, DT (Chicago Bears) - With Tommy Kelly most likely starting next to Vince Wilfork, the top of the Patriots' depth chart at defensive tackle looks as strong as it has in a long time. While there are some high hopes for CFL import Armond Armstead as well, he's still an unknown at this point. The Patriots may want to bring in another veteran to shore things up.
Okoye is an athletic defensive tackle who could potentially be a big presence as an interior rusher in passing situations, but he could also start in a pinch given his experience. If they could get the dollars right, this former first-round pick could be a huge addition at this point in free agency.
However, their depth is a little thin, particularly at the guard spot. As Reiss and Yates pointed out , after playing primarily at tackle in his first two seasons, Marcus Cannon seems to be working exclusively at guard in absence of an injured Dan Connolly. However, a veteran presence could go a long way, especially with top backup Donald Thomas signing with the Colts this offseason.
Moore has a been a good guard in this league for a long time, and you can bet that Bill Belichick knows all about this former Jet. At the back end of his career, don't be surprised if Moore joined a division rival for cheap dollars, with the hope of finally getting a ring before retirement.
Dallas Clark, TE (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) - With Rob Gronkowski's recovery from back and forearm surgery putting his availability for the start of the season in jeopardy and legal issues surrounding Aaron Hernandez with regard to a homicide investigation, the Patriots may be looking for some help at tight end.
The Patriots may want to see what they have in a healthy Jake Ballard and rookie Zach Sudfeld (who was an OTA/minicamp standout according to Mike Reiss and Field Yates of ESPNBoston), but Dallas Clark--a proven veteran who was once considered the best in the game--may be an affordable insurance policy.
Looking it's best since the Corey Dillon days, the Patriots running game had a resurrection last season, led by Stevan Ridley's breakout sophomore year (1,263 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns).
Leach is probably the best fullback in the league and he is just sitting out there waiting for a job.
Imagine what Ridley could do with Leach plowing a path for him?
The only down side of signing Leach would be cutting someone else--likely a running back--to make room for him on the roster. The Patriots have a lot of talent at RB behind Ridley (Shane Vereen, LaGarrette Blount, Leon Washington, Brandon Bolden) so it'd be tough to cut one of them. Bolden looks like he'd be the most likely to go, though.
John Abraham, DE (Atlanta Falcons) - Abraham has been linked to the Patriots in free agency since the get-go, and for good reason. Though he's 35 years old, Abraham is still playing some real good football, coming fresh off a ten-sack season in 2012.
At this point in his career Abraham would probably be most effective in a pass-rushing specialist role, though if need be, he could step in as a starter. It's unclear if Abraham is waiting for the right dollar amount or some kind of playing-time commitment, but if the two sides could meet in the middle, Abraham could push the Pats' defense over the top.
Israel Idonje, DE (Chicago Bears) - If things don't get done with Abraham, Idonje would be a solid--and less expensive--addition. He's been productive as a pass rusher over the last few years (7.5 sacks in 2012, 5 in 2011, 8 in 2010) and is effective against the run. At 6'6'', 270 lbs, he also has some versatility with the ability to play 4-3 end, 4-3 defensive tackle and even 3-4 defensive end.
He wouldn't be asked to start, but the Pats could use a seasoned vet to provide some leadership to a rather young group of ends. It would be surprising if Idonje was looking for top dollar, so if the Pats want him, they could probably get him.
James DiMaio is a Yahoo! contributor who also covers the NFL and the New England Patriots for Bleacher Report.
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