Patriots May Explore Free Agency in Reponse to Recent Roster Moves

Patriots May Explore Free Agency in Reponse to Recent Roster Moves FOXBORO, Mass. — It was an eventful first week of training camp for the Patriots, and some surprising decisions have left them with a little roster flexibility.

Wide receiver David Patten retired, and outside linebacker Derrick Burgess has been placed on the Reserve/Did Not Report list because of his own internal thoughts of retirement. And with left guard Logan Mankins' holdout, New England only has 78 players on its official roster.

Every NFL team can carry 80 players until Aug. 31, when rosters must be trimmed to 75. The big cut-down date is Sept. 4, when teams have to get down to 53 players for the remainder of the season.

"I think it’s normal this time of year, especially during training camp, there’s a lot of roster activity and a lot of roster movement that takes place," Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio said Sunday. "I would say it’s kind of business as usual for us from the standpoint that we’re evaluating what players are available, who might be available and whether or not they might be a fit for what we do."

Caserio mentioned the Patriots have had "some conversations" with Burgess, but the two sides "haven’t quite reached a resolution." Burgess' situation has really put the Patriots in a bind because outside linebacker is unquestionably their thinnest position.

Right now, since there are roughly 2,500 players on NFL rosters, the free-agent scrap has about as much jump as a legless kangaroo, so teams are forced to get creative on the trading market. The Patriots are again equipped with a surplus of 2011 draft picks — and could dangle Mankins, too — so they'll have plenty of routes to explore.

Then again, Caserio was quick to point out the signing of linebacker Rob Ninkovich, who joined up with the club Aug. 2, 2009, but late-summer signings are more about luck than anything. After all, the Patriots also signed cornerback Jamar Love, quarterback Andrew Walter, safety Roderick Rogers and wide receiver Robert Ortiz last August.

Trades obviously aren’t much of an exact science — remember how the Patriots got in this Burgess situation in the first place — but if New England is willing to give up an asset, it's more likely to acquire a valuable one. That’s why Caserio and the Patriots front office will be keeping a close eye on the league's other 31 teams and how they're dealing with injuries and revolving depth charts.

"Really, you’re open for business on anything," Caserio said. "There are a number of different avenues that continue to build your club, whether that’s through trades, whether it’s free agency, whether it’s waiver wire claims. So I think it’s just normal procedure to go through this time of year, whether that entails trade talks … wouldn’t say this year is different than any other year."

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