Taking stock of Patriots pending free agents

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Taking stock of Patriots pending free agents

The Patriots have 18 players set to become free agents on March 12.

The most impactful players on the list are wide receiver Wes Welker, corner Aqib Talib and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer.

Other key guys include corner Kyle Arrington, running back Danny Woodhead and receiver Julian Edelman.

Wideout Deion Branch, safety Patrick Chung, defensive end Trevor Scott, corner Marquice Cole, guard Donald Thomas, special teamerslinebackers Tracy White and Niko Koutouvides are in the next tier.

Safeties Will Allen and Josh Barrett, wide receiver Donte' Stallworth and cornerback Derrick Martin are lower-priority players.

The Patriots have two restricted free agents, Dane Fletcher and Michael Hoomanawanui.

Both Arrington and Branch told me their preference is to remain here in New England. Branch said that, if he doesn't reach accord with the Patriots to come back, he is interested in still playing and feels he has "two or three years left."

The most intriguing decisions to be made are with Welker and Talib.

If the Patriots were to franchise Welker again, the period to do so will begin two weeks after the Super Bowl on February 18.

The feeling here is the Patriots will pass on franchising Welker and try to work out a two or three-year deal with him.

As for Talib, his rookie contract is ending and he'll likely be interested in trying to see what's out there financially before re-signing with the Patriots.

Both Welker and Talib may find a down market for their services.

Quick Slants Podcast: Antonio Brown’s betrayal; Matt Light; eyeing up Pittsburgh

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Quick Slants Podcast: Antonio Brown’s betrayal; Matt Light; eyeing up Pittsburgh

Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry discuss the aftermath of Antonio Brown’s Facebook Live video. Curran interview Matt Light ahead of the AFC Championship. They dissect the press conferences of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, and look at how to beat the Steelers.

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2:29 Antonio Brown’s Facebook Live aftermath

13:14 Stopping Le’Veon Bell

27:16 heywassyonumba? with Patrick Chung and Kyle Van Noy

32:30 Injury report updates for AFC Championship

36:51 Brady and Belichick’s press conferences

44:50 Matt Light interview

Belichick asked if playing at home helps: 'Go ask Dallas and Kansas City'

Belichick asked if playing at home helps: 'Go ask Dallas and Kansas City'

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick knows that how you play, not where, is what matters most. 

That's why when he was asked on Wednesday about the advantage the Patriots will have by playing at Gillette Stadium in the AFC title game, he wasn't willing to go all-in on how a comfortable environment will positively impact his team.

"I don’t know," he said. "Go ask Dallas and Kansas City."

The Patriots apparently thought enough of home-field advantage that they played their starters throughout their regular-season finale win in Miami, exposing their best players to potential injury in order to maintain their positive momentum while simultaneously ensuring a better road to the Super Bowl. 

The Patriots fans in attendance on Sunday will help when the Patriots take on the Steelers, Belichick acknowledged. But there's much more to it than that. 

"Yeah, of course," he said, "but the game is won by the players on the field. That’s who wins football games – the players. And they’ll decide it Sunday night."

And if you needed any further proof, just ask the Cowboys and Chiefs how helpful their home crowds were in the Divisional Round.