Pats' free-agent forecast: Linebackers

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Pats' free-agent forecast: Linebackers

This is the third in a series of position-by-position looks at the Patriots heading into free agency. Today's position: Linebackers.
Wbo's on the roster? Dane Fletcher, Gary Guyton, Niko Koutouvides, Jerod Mayo, Rob Ninkovich, Brandon Spikes, Tracy White, Markell Carter, Jermaine Cunningham, Jeff Tarpinian. Patriots need level? If we're talking outside linebacker, it's a 7. Inside? 4. Position overview? Let's start inside, where the Patriots are pretty well stocked. Jerod Mayo is the quarterback of the defense from the middle, a sure tackler and one of the best in the league when he's fully healthy. Brandon Spikes is one of the best downhill run-stoppers they've had since Ted Johnson. If his head is in it, he'll be good for a while. Dane Fletcher is a nice, fast complement to those two. On the outside? Rob Ninkovich is still riding the crest of his performance wave and is a reliable guy. Jermaine Cunningham? Incredibly non-impactful. Markell Carter, a late-round 2011 draft choice, seems to be a player the team is intrigued by. The team is still yearning for a guy to bring pressure off the edge from the linebacker level. As for guys on last year's team who are hitting free agency, Gary Guyton's play has slid precipitously. Niko Koutouvides and Tracy White are primarily special teamers. Who's out there? Stephen Tulloch, Lions. A short (5-foot-11), sturdy (240-pounds) downhill plugger, the Patriots don't really have a spot for him on the inside.Jarret Johnson, Ravens. A nine-year veteran of the edge spot in the Baltimore 3-4, the underrated Johnson would be a fit for the Patriots. But the Ravens and Jets may have dibs.Kamerion Wimbley, Raiders. I had to asterisk Kam because - as of Friday afternoon - the Raiders still hadn't released him. But with a huge guarantee kicking in on March 17, the Raiders are going to lop him if he doesn't take a pay cut. And when they do, Wimbley will become the best outside pass-rusher on the free agent market.Manny Lawson, Bengals. Maybe better suited to a 4-3 because he's on the lean and long side, it's not a stretch to use Rosey Colvin as a comp. Lawson is 6-5, 240 and can drop in coverage. Other names of note? Niko Koutouvides, Gary Guyton, Tracy White, Tully Banta-Cain, Lofa Tatupu,Free agent forecast? Johnson, Wimbley and Lawson are the names you may recognize. The Patriots' pro personnel department does a remarkable job of cycling through the bottom of the roster names that aren't on our radar, though, so you can expect a "Who's he?" moment in the coming weeks.

OFFSEASON

Vertical's Bobby Marks: Celtics a 'wild card' in Durant chase

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Vertical's Bobby Marks: Celtics a 'wild card' in Durant chase

Many people think Kevin Durant-to-the-Celtics is a pipe dream.

But Bobby Marks of The Vertical isn't one of them.

Appearing on CBS Sports Radio's Gio and Jones Show, Marks said Durant's decision on where to play next year will be based on "a lot of different things. Does he go the one-year route that a lot of us think might be in play to get his years of service up to 10 and then next year he can really cash out? Can you win a championship going forward? I think that eliminates more than a handful of teams here, and then there’s also that stability factor and just how challenging it’s going to be for them to fit him in (from) a cap standpoint.

"Most of these teams that he will meet with will have to really gut a little bit of their roster outside of Oklahoma City and Boston.”

Boston?

“Boston is kind of a wild card here,” Marks said. “They’re in the East, so you don’t have to bang your head against San Antonio, Golden State, Portland, the Clippers. Yes, you would have the NBA champs in your back yard with Cleveland, but basically you would really just have them and Toronto.

"And Boston’s got a lot of ways to improve in the future (with all of of their draft picks). Durant could walk into the Celtics meeting room and say, ‘Hey, I want to play with Al Horford,’ and they’ll be able to create room to do so. That’s why I kind of put Boston up there along with Oklahoma City.”

Red Sox recall infielder Mike Miller, ship Cuevas back to PawSox

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Red Sox recall infielder Mike Miller, ship Cuevas back to PawSox

The Red Sox made another pitcher-for-infielder roster swap today, sending William Cuevas back to Pawtucket and bringing up Mike Miller as his replacement.

The Sox had summoned Cuevas from the PawSox over the weekend when they ran through their bullpen in Friday night's come-from-behind victory over Texas and he pitched twice against the Rangers, holding them to two hits over 2 2/3 scoreless innings on Saturday and Sunday. Deven Marrero had been shipped out when Cuevas arrived, leaving the Sox with only one backup infielder (Marco Hernandez).

Now they have two again, with Miller making his first trip to the major leagues. He's been primarily a second baseman for Pawtucket, though he's also seen action at short and third. Miller -- the team's ninth-round selection in the 2012 draft -- had a combined .251 average in 46 games for the PawSox and six games for Double-A Portland.

However, his stay with the Red Sox will likely be as short as Cuevas'. Brock Holt may soon be ready for reactivation, after having missed more than a month because of a concussion, and he could take Miller's roster spot when he returns.