The 2008 free agency period has been nothing what 2007 was like. The Patriots have scheduled few visits, made only a few moves, and haven’t pursued any big name free agents.
Still, the team has made some moves, including the signings of three defensive backs, Tank Williams, Jason Webster, and Lewis Sanders as well as wide receiver Sam Aiken.
Tank Williams has played safety his entire career. He most recently played for the Vikings. Last year, he didn’t do much, but I think he could be a good fit for our system. Williams is simply a hard hitter. He isn’t too good in pass coverage, but he can be helpful in run support. I would expect him to be part of the safety rotation, with Harrison, Sanders, and Meriweather. The Patriots could potentially run a package of Meriweather (better in coverage), Harrison or Sanders, and Williams. Williams could be used as a blitzing safety, or he could cheat up and play linebacker. Remember Matt Stevens? I think Williams could have a role similar to him.
Webster is a true wildcard. Last year, with the Bills, Webster was injured for just about the entire season, even though he was projected to be a starter. If he can get past his injuries, Webster could be a potential starter or nickel back. Webster has speed and cover skills, although he lacks size. Webster’s future with the team relies 100% on his training camp performance. If he’s healthy, plays well, and learns the system, he could be a starter, or at least a backup. If he’s still hurting, and/or struggles, he could be out of town before September.
Lewis Sanders has one thing that no other corner on the Patriots roster has: size. Sanders has been injured, but was healthy for just about all of last season. Sanders is a good tackler, decent in man coverage, and as I said before, has size. He is also an exceptional special teams player. He could play his way into a starting position, but I would expect him to be more of a role defender, and a full time special teams player.
Sam Aiken certainly wasn’t signed to take over Donte Stallworth’s role, but he was signed to contribute on special teams. Aiken is a special teams ace, and can also play some receiver (although I wouldn’t expect him to take on that role with the Patriots.) I would expect him to make the team.
Although the Patriots haven’t signed any big name guys, they have taken a look at one, and another look at an interesting prospect.
Seward has played in the Carolina’s 4-3 defense as a backup and special teams player since being drafted in 2005. However, at UNLV, he gained a lot of experience in the 3-4. He is a restricted free agent, and the Patriots would have to give up a fifth round pick if they signed him to an offer sheet (and the Panthers didn’t match). I think that the Patriots will, and should sign Seward to an offer sheet. It would be low risk, and could be high reward, as Seward could develop into a star in the Patriots 3-4 system.
Ty Law has been mentioned multiple times on this sight. Simply stated, he wants to be a Patriot. He and Belichick have had discussions, and there is a possibility a deal could get done. If signed, Law would likely begin to transition to free safety, although he would still see a lot of time at corner. The obvious sticking point will be money.
According to sources, the Patriots are one of five teams interested in the services of Pacman Jones. Is he what we need? Yes. Is he what we want? Probably not. People say that the Patriots have had a tendency of bringing in “bad” players, and turning them around. But that’s simply not true. Randy Moss and Corey Dillon never had legal issues like Pacman, they were both disgruntled from losing. There’s a big difference. If the Patriots could get Pacman for a sixth or seventh round pick, I say go for it. If the Titans want more, it’s simply not worth the risk.
The Patriots have had preliminary discussions with cornerback Hank Poteat. We all know what Poteat can provide. But has he lost a step? Still, I’d like to bring him into free agency and give him a shot.