Pats poised for big doings in free agency

Pats poised for big doings in free agency
March 8, 2013, 3:00 pm
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When Tom Brady extended his contract last week, dropping his salary cap hit by $15 million over the next two years, attention swiveled to Wes Welker. Would that get the loyal little slot receiver the decent deal he's been hoping for with the Patriots?

While that domino continues to wobble - and may still wobble past Tuesday, when Welker and all the other 2013 free agents hit the market - the restructure by Brady wasn't done with one player in mind. It was done, in part, because of the team's supposition that a lot of talent was going to get thrown overboard in the days leading up to free agency.

And that bet is paying off. On Friday, Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson was relieved of duty in Arizona. He becomes another of the "name" safeties that may attract Patriots' interest, along with guys like Ed Reed, Charles Woodson, LaRon Landry, Quin Glover and Kenny Phillips.

Also hitting the market this week was former Chiefs right tackle Eric Winston - a suitable replacement for Sebastian Vollmer if Vollmer finds a new employer and the Patriots are unsure about Marcus Cannon.

I contacted Winston on Thursday and he said, "anyone would be interested" in playing for the Patriots if the opportunity was there. (Except Terrell Suggs.)

At defensive end, John Abraham - despite being 34 - is already on the market and could be the kind of situational threat the Patriots would like to have.

The Patriots are exceptionally hard to crack when it comes to projecting who their targets are. In 2011, they came out of the lockout and acquired Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth in one fell swoop and nobody really knew until the ink was drying on the deals.

Last season, we all knew Brandon Lloyd wanted to be a Patriot and he became one. The other signings? Among Steve Gregory, Jonathan Fanene, Trevor Scott, Joseph Addai, Daniel Fells, Anthony Gonzalez, Donte Stallworth, Robert Gallery, Will Allen and Marquice Cole, there was little fanfare previous to their joining the team. And little cause for fanfare, as it turned out.

The Patriots have traditionally shopped with thrift. The last time they backed up the Brinks Truck for a player was Adalius Thomas in 2007. Turned out, the thing didn't come with snow tires. Whether it's coincidence or cause-and-effect that they haven't gone in big on a "height of his powers" free agent since AD is impossible to say with 100 percent certainty.

But the Patriots have cleared room to welcome in other teams' cap castoffs. We'll be working hard over the next 10 days to find out which ones those may be.