Rashean MathisEditor’s Note: NESN.com will evaluate and analyze one potential Patriots free agent addition every day from Feb. 18 through the start of NFL free agency on March 12.

Rashean Mathis is no Adrian Peterson. That was obvious even before the Jaguars corner tore his ACL midway through the 2011 season. Just because he didn’t recover quite as quickly as the bionic freak Peterson doesn’t mean he can’t return to his once All-Pro form, though.

Even after enduring his worst season as a pro in 2012, the 32-year-old cornerback still has all the makings of a productive cornerback, which could well interest the Patriots.

The Patriots are in dire need of some help in the secondary, and they have been for a few seasons now. Aqib Talib appeared to provide the answer to their ailments midseason, but he, along with a few other Patriots defensive backs, is set to hit free agency.  Now, the focus turns to that same pool of players to find a more permanent solution to the Patriots’ problem.

Mathis parted ways with the Jaguars on Tuesday, sending him to free agency for the first time in his 10-year career and making New England an immediate contender for his services.

The Patriots have a penchant for signing veteran cornerbacks, dating back to Otis Smith and Terrell Buckley and counting all the way through Shawn Springs and Will Allen. Mathis fits that exact mold, and even more so he is also revered as a high character and team-oriented individual — all of which smells distinctly like Foxboro cooking.

Mathis might not be the same cornerback who squared off with every team’s No. 1 receiver on a weekly basis, nor is he the one who once intercepted eight passes in a season (2006), but the Patriots could use a reliable third corner in the potential absence of Kyle Arrington.

A lot of older corners tend to drift over into the slot and become a team’s nickel corner. Terence Newman did a great job of it with the Bengals last season, and there is no reason Mathis wouldn’t be able to do the same in New England. Plus, after such a down year, Mathis should come on the cheap.

Even if Mathis was seen as one answer, he wouldn’t be enough to ensure improvement in the Patriots’ secondary. Someone in the ilk of Talib, Brent Grimes or even Sean Smith would still be needed to solidify that defense, but signing Mathis would at least be a solid starting point.

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Other free agent possibilities: Gosder Cherilus  Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie  Danny Amendola – Anthony Spencer – Anthony Fasano – Dwight Freeney – Brandon Moore – Dunta Robinson – Glover Quin – Greg Jennings

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