Taking stock of Patriots pending free agents


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.

Rex Ryan: Zero focus on 'extracurricular things' vs. Patriots


Rex Ryan: Zero focus on 'extracurricular things' vs. Patriots

FOXBORO -- Seems as though the Bills don't quite have their stories straight. 

On the one hand, you have Bills players, who say that they won't hesitate to retaliate if a Patriots player gets near one of their pregame warmup drills, as Jacoby Brissett did in Week 4. 

On the other hand, you have the Bills coach, who sounded less eager for there to be any kind of scrap before this weekend's game at Ralph Wilson Stadium. 

"No, I mean with us, just go out and warm up," Ryan said in a conference call Wednesday. "That’s what you do, but any of the extracurricular things, you know, there’s absolutely zero focus on that, and shouldn’t be any focus on that. It’s just about playing games.

"I mean if people want to show how tough they are, put the boxing gloves on and get in the ring or something. That might be more impressive -- I don’t want Gronk by the way.

"But I definitely don’t want to see that happen, and our focus is 100 percent on the game and doing the very best we possibly can."

It's an interesting comment from a coach who has made it very clear that he wanted to build a "bully" in Buffalo. His team shut out the Patriots after trying to intimidate New England's rookie quarterback before the game. Did his team not benefit somehow from what occurred before kickoff that day?

He doesn't think so.

"It had nothing to do with our team . . . Absolutely nothing," he said. "You know, those things happen every now and then but it was no big deal. It did absolutely nothing for us."

Roethlisberger to Brady: I've never done this before but...can I have your jersey?

Roethlisberger to Brady: I've never done this before but...can I have your jersey?

Tom Brady has fans everywhere, apparently. Even in Pittsburgh. Even on the Steelers roster. 

Showtime's Inside the NFL caught video of Brady meeting with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger before Sunday's game between New England and Pittsburgh. 

The pair hugged near the 50-yard line at Heinz Field. Brady called Roethlisberger "big guy." Roethlisberger, who was out with a knee injury, told Brady he wanted to play "so bad."


Then Roethlisberger became a fan. And like many of them, he had a request. 

"Um, hey, listen," he said. "I've never done this before, but I would love to get a jersey at some point. It'd mean...There's not many I want to put in my office. You're the best, dude."

Brady was happy to oblige. Just not right at that moment. 

"Sure, I'd love to," Brady said. "I'll get you after the game."