Free Agent Primer: Wide receivers

Free Agent Primer: Wide receivers

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

When 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. WIDE RECEIVERStatus Report: The Patriots scored 31 or more points in every game after the Cleveland debacle. 39, 31, 45, 45, 36, 31, 34, 38. Five players caught more than 30 balls, six players were over 375 yards receiving. Their passing game is excellent. Their wide receivers had a terrific year. But still...there's something that makes you feel they could be more complete at the position. And better stocked for the future.Who They Got: Wes Welker is entering the final year of his contract and is about to turn30.Coming off the ACL injury, he hada modest year by his recent standards - 86 catches for 848 yards and 9.9 average. His could be a sticky renegotiation.Deion Branch is 32. His presence kick-started the offense and - in an upset - opened things up for diversity the way Randy Moss didn't. Brandon Tate remains raw but he's their X receiver. Julian Edelman had a very disappointing second year and was plagued by drops. Taylor Price performed a season-long apprenticeship as a rookie before making three catches in the regular-season finale. What They Need:For one thing, they need to panic less than the region did after the playoff loss to the Jets. FIELD STRETCHAAAHHH! THEY NEED A FIELD STRETCHAAHHH! They do need a better outside the numbers threat than simply Tate, though. And they need better depth at all three receiver spots. But the transformation of the passing game from a wideout-based one to one that features tight ends means we have to redefine what they need going forward. The Patriots have made a habit of trying to find smart, veteran receivers who are advanced in the pro passing game. Those are the ones with whom Brady has most success. There have been misses - Torry Holt, Joey Galloway - but they are always looking for that kind of player. Who's Out There: Braylon Edwards (Jets),Sidney Rice(Vikings), Brad Smith (Jets), Steve Smith (Giants), Santonio Holmes (Jets), Santana Moss (Redskins), Terrell Owens (Bengals), Mike Sims-Walker (Jaguars), Randy Moss (Titans), Lance Moore (Saints), Jacoby Jones(Texans) Possible Targets: Santana Moss, Brad Smith, Lance Moore, Jacoby Jones. Braylon's a moron; Santonio and the Giants Steve Smith want to stay where they are. Santana Moss is a smart route runner. Smith is a Swiss Army knife and his gain would be the Jets' loss. One guy the Patriots should explore is the Panthers' Steve Smith. He turns 32 in May and has two years left on his contract. He's got nobody to throw to him in Carolina and his numbers reflect that 46 catches for 554 yards last year. He is the same as a Corey Dillon or Randy Moss - very talented, very competitive and combustible. New England would be Eden for him for a year or two. A third-round pick could get it done on draft day. More than Chad Ochocinco, who - a well-informed source recently told me - has lost his nerve and work ethic - Smith is the kind of player to target.

Bennett back at practice, but admits injuries hurting his play

Bennett back at practice, but admits injuries hurting his play

FOXBORO -- Martellus Bennett is willing to admit it. 

"Last week was probably my worst game as a Patriot," he told reporters in the locker room on Thursday. "But, you know, you have a bad game here and there. This week, come back grinding, and get ready."

Never was it more clear than on Sunday that Bennett has been hobbled by the injuries he's dealing with. He's coped with an ankle injury since Week 5 in Cleveland that has earned him the respect of his teammates and coaches, but against the Rams it appeared to severely impact his performance. 

He saw four targets and caught two for four yards. As a blocker -- the facet of his game that stood out more than his receiving ability early this season -- he was called for two holds and had difficulty keeping his assignments in check, both in the run game and in pass protection. 

Asked if he may benefit from a week off, Bennett said he planned to continue to play.

"I never thought about that. I just keep going," he said. "I'm like the energizer bunny. I just try to find a way. Sometimes it's [expletive] when you're out there playing with different injuries. You can't do a lot of things that you want to do. You have [expletive] plays. You might have a string of bad plays in a row just because youre dealing with different things . . . 

"But throughout the game you kind of find a way to get the job done. I think that's the biggest point. It may not be pretty all the time, but try to figure some kind of way to get it done. Sometimes it's adjusting as the game goes on."

He added: "The thing about this sport is it's always something. You never go throuigh a season without having some kind of nick or tear, but there's a lot of guys playing with different things. But some guys are able to play through different injuries, and [with] some of the same injuries, you see guys around the league . . . go on IR and things like that. But it just depends on the person and their pain tolerance."

Bennett was back at practice Thursday after he wasn't spotted there on Wednesday. He may be helped by the long week leading up to Monday's game against the Ravens. It could mean an extra day of rest and recovery.

Sometimes, he said, it's difficult not to be out there.

"Sometimes. Sometimes it's like, thank God. I needed that today," he said. "It varies each week. . . I'll fight through whatever and I think that's something that my teammates and coaches know about me that I'm going to try to give them everything I got no matter what."

Ravens’ Suggs submits half-hearted effort at Brady snub

Ravens’ Suggs submits half-hearted effort at Brady snub

Terrell Suggs keeps doing his best to pump air into his one-sided “feud” with Tom Brady.

Ever since Brady begged for a flag on Suggs after a benign hit back in 2009, Suggs has made it his mission to speak truth to the perceived power of Brady.

“Everyone just seems to worship the guy so much,” he once said. “Not me, though.”

So, Suggs has called basically derided Brady as a crybaby and occasionally called into question the validity of the Patriots championships.

It’s clearly all for show. When Deflategate was at its height in June of 2015, Suggs said of Brady, “The guy is a winner. He’s won with whatever kind of personnel that he’s had. So I don’t think [Deflategate] really tarnished it … Everybody needs something to write about and needs something to talk about. It’s always something. I’m leaving that alone.”

This week, Suggs smirkingly refused to use Brady’s name when discussing the Patriots leading up to Monday night’s game.

Asked about Brady earning his 201st win as an NFL starter, Suggs said, "He's pretty good. Like I said, wins are wins and numbers are numbers. Numbers don't lie. He's pretty good."

Suggs went on, avoiding Brady’s name. It’s something he’s done in the past for whatever reason. But he’s also been complimentary of the Patriots and Brady as well, saying that, when it’s done, there will be three quarterbacks in the conversation for best-ever: Montana, Unitas and Brady. 

The only time Brady’s verbally stepped out against Suggs and the Ravens is in response to their barbs. In 2010, Brady stated that the Ravens, “Talk a lot for beating us once in nine years.”

Brady also chastised Ravens coach John Harbaugh – now there’s a guy who whines! – after the 2014 AFC Divisional Playoff Game when the Patriots snookered the Ravens with intricate formations. That’s about it for return fire.