Patriots Free Agent Primer: Inside linebackers

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Patriots Free Agent Primer: Inside linebackers

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.comThis is the seventh in a series of looks at the Patriots' position-by-position needs after the draft, and who's available to fill them via free agency . . . whenever free agency might come. Today's position:Inside linebacker.

Who's here?
Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Gary Guyton, Dane Fletcher.Who's out there?
Stewart Bradley (Eagles), Akin Ayodele (Bills), Stephen Tulloch (Titans), A.J. Hawk (Packers), Stephen Cooper (Chargers), Eric Barton (Browns), Kevin Bentley (Texans), Mark Herzlich (Boston College)What's the need?
From 1-10? Let's call it a 5. That's a real good group of four players in the "Who's here?" department. You have an All-Pro run-stuffer who sets the tone for the defense in Mayo. A kid who should improve into a pretty good NFL starter in Spikes. A guy who can give much-needed speed in covering between the numbers on intermediary third-down routes in Guyton. And a speedy, try-hard guy in Fletcher. But what the Patriots could use is an old lion in the mix they can plug-and-play when Spikes is lagging. I'll be honest, I'm not sure Spikes has the same level of professionalism as the rest of the ILBs he's working with.
Who do they chase?
There's no reason to spend time on the high-end guys like Tulloch or Hawk. But Bradley and Ayodele are veteran guys with 3-4 knowledge. Cooper is also a 3-4 ILB but he has a tendency to get driven around like a shopping cart. Herzlich is a very likely candidate for the Patriots to pursue. Because of his post-illness speed limitations, he may need to make the move inside.
Who do we look at next?
Secondary.

Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Ohio State LB on Belichick: 'When you first meet him, you're scared'

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Ohio State LB on Belichick: 'When you first meet him, you're scared'

Even for some of the nation's top athletes, confident 20-somethings with the rest of their (perhaps very lucrative) lives ahead of them, there's a feeling you just can't shake when Bill Belichick walks into the room. 

"When you first meet him, you're scared," said Ohio State linebacker Raekwon McMillan, per WBZ. "He's quizzing you. It's like a little test. But after you get done with the test, the quiz or whatever, drawing up the defense, it's pretty cool. They're real down to earth people. Really cool."

Belichick was spotted at Ohio State's pro day getting a closer look at McMillan and his teammates on Thursday. He then headed off to Ann Arbor, Michigan for the Wolverines showcase Friday.

During various scouting trips across the country, the Patriots appear to be showing significant interest in the incoming class of linebackers. Belichick spent some extra time with Vanderbilt's Zach Cunningham -- who's projected to be a first-rounder -- at his pro day. The team reportedly scheduled a meeting with a speedy linebacker from Cincinnati. And Matt Patricia caught up with Notre Dame linebacker James Onwualu once his workouts finished up on Thursday. 

As for McMillan, the 6-2, 240-pounder was a second-team All-American and a first-team All-Big Ten choice. He's instinctive, but there's some question as to whether or not he has the strength to hold up inside at the next level.

PODCAST: Dan Wetzel on the Aaron Hernandez double-murder trial

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PODCAST: Dan Wetzel on the Aaron Hernandez double-murder trial

Tom E. Curran has Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports as a guest to discuss the Aaron Hernandez double homicide trial. Wetzel has been in the courtroom, and wrote this piece about the day Hernandez’s former friend Alexander Bradley testified in court. 

After speaking with Wetzel, Curran has Tim Rohan of MMQB.com on to discuss his day with ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

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