Patriots Free Agency Needs: Cornerback, Wide Receiver Must Be Addressed

Julian EdelmanThe New England Patriots won’t be prepared to spend big money as soon as free agency starts at 4 p.m. Tuesday, but they have some key needs that must be addressed this offseason.

It’s not a surprise that the Patriots’ name hasn’t been tossed around in free agent tampering rumors since teams were allowed to contact players’ agents at noon Saturday. The Patriots tend to keep their discussions close to the vest and tell agents not to leak any information.

It’s tough to predict what the Patriots will do once free agency starts, but it’s clear what positions need to be filled. Check out which players could be coming to New England through free agency.

WIDE RECEIVER

Julian Edelman is still the Patriots’ most likely free agent target at wide receiver. There doesn’t seem to be much interest in Edelman based on tampering rumors, but the receiver’s agent rarely allows the media to release any information on his clients.

There hasn’t been much buzz on Hakeem Nicks, Emmanuel Sanders or Eric Decker yet.┬áNFL Media’s Daniel Jeremiah theorized that wide receivers might come cheap in free agency since the draft is loaded at the position. That would be good news for the Patriots, since it makes sense for them to address the position with a veteran after drafting two receivers last year.

DEFENSIVE END

It would be shocking if the Patriots were willing to spend for Michael Johnson, but Jared Allen remains a real possibility to come to New England. Allen’s play has tailed off a little bit over the last few years, but he still collected 11.5 sacks in 2013.

If the Patriots aren’t willing to pay Allen, they could look for another big free agent defensive end like Lamarr Houston or Corey Wootton.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Red Bryant is off the market after signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and it seems Arthur Jones will be out of the Patriots’ price range. The Patriots still have some intriguing possibilities at three-technique defensive tackle or five-technique defensive end, however.

Kevin Williams, Clinton McDonald and Jason Hatcher could be cheaper options for the Patriots, if they’re willing to sign short-term deals to join a winner. The Patriots need to increase the pressure from the middle of their defense.

CORNERBACK

The Patriots likely would prefer to keep Aqib Talib, but with rampant reports that the Washington Redskins are interested, he could quickly rise out of New England’s price range.

Alterraun Verner said Monday that the Patriots remain in the mix for his services. He sounded willing to take a price cut to join a winner, too.

If the Patriots miss out on Talib and Verner, they could sign a cheaper, bigger option like Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Antonio Cromartie or Charles Tillman.

SAFETY

If the Patriots miss out on a top cornerback and have to cheap out at that position, they could spend big money at safety to help shore up the secondary. Jairus Byrd and T.J. Ward are getting a lot of buzz, but the Patriots could sneak in to steal one of them from the rest of the competition.

Have a question for Doug Kyed? Send it to him via Twitter at @DougKyedNESN or send it here.

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