Free Agent Primer: Outside Linebackers


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 Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Five quick impressions: Patriots 27, Steelers 16

Five quick impressions: Patriots 27, Steelers 16

The Patriots went into Pittsburgh and beat an under-manned Steelers team Sunday afternoon, 27-16. Here are some of our quick takeaways.

PATRIOTS 27, STEELERS 16: Curran's Best and Worst | Troy Brown: Pittsburgh didn't capitalize on Pats' mistakes

-- With all eyes on the matchup between Antonio Brown and Malcolm Butler, the third-year Patriots corner held his own. After allowing nine catches for 133 yards to Brown in their first meeting last season, Butler allowed Brown to catch five passes for 90 yards Sunday. Butler also took advantage of some of the chances taken by Landry Jones, intercepting one pass intended for Brown in the end zone in the first quarter. Butler finished the day with two pass breakups and a pick on 10 targets. The four catches he allowed to Brown were the only catches he allowed in the game. 

-- Julian Edelman looked like Julian Edelman in the win. He caught 9 of the 10 targets sent his way for 60 yards, getting open underneath while seeing one-on-one coverage for much of the contest. Edelman has been on the injury report for the last two weeks, limited with a foot injury, but he was able to get open on the intermediate routes that has made him one of Tom Brady's favorite targets over the last few years. Edelman did have one drop on third down, and he did fumble a punt return, which allows us to . . . 

-- . . . take a look at what was a rough day for Patriots special teams units. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed yet another extra point -- his second in as many weeks. He has now missed five kicks on the season, including three field goals. The Patriots kickoff unit also had a difficult day, allowing three kicks to be returned past the 25-yard line. The punt-coverage team made one costly error at the end of the first half when Brandon Bolden kicked a bouncing ball out of the back of the Steelers end zone. Instead of the Pittsburgh drive starting at the 6-yard line, where Bolden touched the football, it came out to the 20. At the end of the half, the Steelers kicked a 32-yard field goal. Bolden also dropped a third-down pass that would have gone for a first down. On another punt, it appeared as though Bolden got up slowly after trying to down the ball near the goal line. It was his first game back after suffering a knee injury in Week 4.

-- LeGarrette Blount had a big day against his former team. The 250-pound back didn't want to be a story line earlier in the week, denying interview requests, saying that he would speak after the game on Sunday. His performance at Heinz Field will certainly keep those requests coming. He ran 24 times for 127 yards and two touchdowns, beating up on the Steelers front-seven late in the game as New England protected its lead. 

-- While the Patriots offensive line provided Blount with enough room to run, it was a relatively sloppy day for Brady's protection up front. Left tackle Nate Solder turned in one drive during which he allowed a pressure and was then flagged for back-to-back holding penalties (one of which was declined). Shaq Mason also appeared to have trouble with Pittsburgh's Jarvis Jones, allowing a couple of pressures and picking up a flag for holding. Joe Thuney and David Andrews -- both of whom had good blocks on James White's score -- also picked up penalties. There will be plenty for offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia to pick at and try to improve in the coming week of practice.