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.

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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