Free Agent Primer: Outside Linebackers

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Free Agent Primer: Outside Linebackers

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.comThis is the sixth 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: Outside linebacker.
Who's here?Tully Banta-Cain, Rob Ninkovich, Jermaine Cunningham, Marques Murrell, Markell Carter, Eric Moore.

Who's out there?
Manny Lawson (49ers), Rocky McIntosh (Redskins), Matt Roth (Browns), Thomas Howard (Raiders), Antwan Barnes (Chargers), Mike Vrabel (Chiefs).What's the need?
From 1-10? Let's call it an8. Blame it on Adalius. After seasons of seemingly having the DEOLB position figured out with a succession of good to great players, the Patriots paid fat cash for Adalius Thomas as a free agent in 2007. He was happy to take the money and run half speed. And now the Patriots seem in a funk when addressing the position. They are loathe to go back to free agency tofind an answer but - in a draft allegedly loaded with 3-4 outside backers, the Patriots didn't take one until Sunday (Markell Carter). As for the guys currently here, Cunningham has promise and Banta-Cain is due for a solid season in his on-again, off-again pattern. I think Moore - who signed with the Patriots in late 2010 - is an under-the-radar find as well. And Ninkovich won't hurt you much. But they still don't have a "star" at a position which most teams try to find or create. Who do they chase?
The smart money has been on them pursuing Roth - and it does make sense. As Mike Lombardi of the NFL Network recently pointed out, Roth is a seemingly good fit for the Patriots. He's 6-4, 275, has extensive experience in the 3-4, is just 28 years old and played for Belichick buddy Kirk Ferentz at Iowa. He's the most interesting prospect on the market. Who do we look at next?
Inside linebackers.

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

Wednesday's Pats-Bills practice report: Jimmy G., Brissett both 'limited'

Wednesday's Pats-Bills practice report: Jimmy G., Brissett both 'limited'

FOXBORO -- The highly-anticipated first Patriots injury report of the week was released on Wednesday afternoon, and it was fairly predictable. 

Both injured quarterbacks were active but limited in their practice participation, the report indicated. That comes as little surprise as both Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder) and Jacoby Brissett (thumb) were spotted throwing passes early in Wednesday's practice. Neither appeared to be experiencing any significant discomfort as they made their warm-up throws. 

Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower (knee) and tight end Rob Gronkowski (hamstring) were also limited. Gronkowski admitted that the team was taking it slow with him in his first game back on the field last week -- he played just 14 snaps in New England's win over Houston -- but he said on Wednesday that he hoped to go "freakin' crazy" on the field soon.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
QB Jacoby Brissett (right thumb)
OT Marcus Cannon (calf)
G Jonathan Cooper (foot)
LB Jonathan Freeny (shoulder)
QB Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder)
TE Rob Gronkowski (hamstring)
LB Dont'a Hightower (knee)
CB Eric Rowe (ankle)

BUFFALO BILLS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
TE Charles Clay (knee)
OL Cyrus Kouandjio (ankle)
OL Patrick Lewis (knee)
WR Sammy Watkins (foot)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
DB Colt Anderson (foot)
DB Ronald Darby (hamstring)
QB Cardale Jones (right shoulder)
DB Jonathan Meeks (foot)
WR Greg Salas (groin)
DB Aaron Williams (ankle)
OL Cordy Glenn (ankle)

Garoppolo: Not pressured by Patriots to return last Thursday

Garoppolo: Not pressured by Patriots to return last Thursday

FOXBORO -- Jimmy Garoppolo spoke Wednesday for the first time since getting his shoulder separated by the Dolphins’ Kiko Alonso. Standing by his locker, Garoppolo was predictably vague about the status of his arm, unless you consider, “Getting better day by day,” as being insightful. 

The only two responses offered that were worth a damn came when asked if he could have done anything different when he got squished by Alonso while retreating and buying time.  

“Just have to be smart I guess,” said Garoppolo. “I mean, it’s football and stuff’s gonna happen like that, but have to be smart in those situations.”

Asked if he regretted holding the ball as long as he did on a third-down play with the Patriots up 21-0, Garoppolo replied, “After it’s all said and done it’s easy to say that, but it’s one of those things, you’re in the heat of the game. But bottom line I have to be smarter than that.”

Agreed.  

Meanwhile, as he worked last week to get back for Thursday night’s game against Houston, The Boston Herald reported that the Patriots were “putting pressure” on Garoppolo to be ready for the game. Working hard to get key players ready for upcoming games is standard operating procedure for a medical staff. Trying to force a player to perform is not. 

I asked Garoppolo if he felt unduly pressured. He replied, “No.”