By Tom E. CurranWhen and if the labor situation gets settled, the NFL's free agent shopping period will follow soon after. Who's out there? What do the Patriots need? What do the Patriots have? We'll go position-by-position to bring you up-to-speed. RUNNING BACKStatus Report: The Patriots running game in 2010 wasat its most efficient since the departure of Corey Dillon.New England generated 1,973 yards on the ground (4.3 YPC) and 19 touchdowns, but it was the timeliness and consistency of the contributions that made the Patriots rushing attack take heat off of Tom Brady in 2010.Who They Got: The Patriots got a 1,008-yard season out of hard-running and surehanded BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Classic feature back? Maybe not. But he'll more than do. He's a restricted free agent who's been tendered at a second-round level and is sure to be around.Danny Woodhead was even more of a bonus than Benny. He generated 926 yards from scrimmage, scored sixtouchdowns and is a worthy successor to the great Kevin Faulk. Faulk is a free agent after an injury-marred 2010. Fred Taylor and Sammy Morris are free agents as well. What They Need: Depth behind both BJGE and Woodhead will be essential. Benny's backup probably should be someone more durable than Taylor or Morris at this stage of their careers; Woodhead's backup figures to be Faulk if the Patriots bring him back andthey ought to. He was the team's best back in 2009 and his presence and professionalism is a continued touchstone for the youngPatriots. Ideally, the Patriots would get a 220-plus pounder to complement the other two guys. Who's Out There: Darren Sproles (Chargers), Ricky Williams (Dolphins), Jerious Norwood (Falcons), Ronnie Brown (Dolphins), Cedric Benson (Bengals), Mike Tolbert (Chargers), Tim Hightower (Cardinals), DeAngelo Williams (Panthers), Michael Bush (Raiders), Joseph Addai (Colts). Possible Targets: Norwood, Tolbert, Hightower, Bush, Addai. The explosive Norwood is coming off a torn ACL and injuries are mounting. Still, he's only 28. Tolbert is a RFA and got a second-round tender from San Diego. He's a 243-pound short-yardage force. The 222-pound Hightower is being fazed out in Arizona. He's only 25. Finally, if the Ravens let go of Willis McGahee, his power and short-yardage skill could make him a target in New England.
Haters gonna hate. Robert Kraft knows that, and he's not going to hold a grudge because of it. But he won't forget, either.
The New England Patriots owner appeared on the latest episode of HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" for an interview with Andrea Kremer that aired Tuesday night, and he was as candid as any member of the organization has been throughout the Deflategate saga.
“I really don’t hold grudges,” Kraft admitted in the interview, per WEEI. “I mean, I remember everything, but I move on. ... Envy and jealousy are incurable diseases. The haters still hate. And I understand it, and we’ll do our best to keep them in that position.”
And while Kraft isn't holding grudges, he still recognizes the negative impact the controversy left on Tom Brady's pristine reputation.
“He’s just not the greatest quarterback in the history of the NFL,” Kraft began. “He’s an amazing human being. And is genuine. And as nice as everybody thinks he is, he’s nicer. And to see anyone attack him as an individual or his integrity. And that just wasn’t fair.”
Will Martellus Bennett be back with the Patriots next season?
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport says it's "a real possibility" Bennett leaves given the asking price and potential offers.
Less than an hour later, the unrestricted free agent sent out a tweet responding to speculation about his future.
I haven't given free agency a ton of thought at this moment to be truly honest. I've been in MartyLand creating for @ImaginationAgcy— Martellus Bennett (@MartysaurusRex) February 22, 2017
I haven't asked for anything either. I'm just chilling. Lol— Martellus Bennett (@MartysaurusRex) February 22, 2017
Bennett, who will 30 years old in March, had seven touchdowns in 19 games in his first season with the New England Patriots.