Free Agency Begins, Patriots Stand Fast...For Now

Steve Balestrieri
March 14, 2012 at 12:15pm ET

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With big money being thrown at free agent WRs, is it good news for Wes Welker? (Steve Balestrieri photo)

With the Free Agency period starting on Tuesday at 4 p.m. we saw the usual flurry of teams rushing to over pay some of the top free agents that are on the market. Meanwhile the Patriots remained on the outside looking in, which is hardly surprising

Miami, in a surprising move packed off talented but troubled WR Brandon Marshall to the Chicago Bears for a pair of third round draft picks. That is a surprising low-ball price for Marshall who’ll be reunited with QB Jay Cutler.

Other WRs signing very quickly were Pierre Garcon (5 yrs, $42.5 million, $20 million guaranteed) and Josh Morgan ( essentially a 2 yr deal worth $12 million) with the Redskins and Vincent Jackson (5 yrs $55 million with $36 million in the first 3 years) going to Tampa Bay and perhaps the most surprising was Reggie Wayne opting to stay in Indianapolis. Wayne it was thought would follow Peyton Manning where ever he decided to go. But Wayne signed a three year $17.5 deal to remain a Colt. Marques Colston opted to remain in New Orleans for 5 years and $50 million.

With this kind of money being tossed about, it will make the future signing of Wes Welker that more difficult. So I would not look for the Patriots and Welker to come to any agreement soon. In fact, I’d say it’s doubtful that anything gets done by the start of training camp.

While this was on-going the Patriots as is their M.O. remained quiet, much to the chagrin of their fans as the Twitter timelines were filled with fan angst as the Patriots didn’t make a splash on Day 1. Well perhaps a tiny ripple, as the team re-signed LB and special teams player Niko Koutouvides. The Patriots also placed an exclusive rights free agent tender on RFA DL Kyle Love.

Later in the day it was announced that WR Robert Meachem and perhaps the most coveted free agent DL/OLB Mario Williams were visiting the Buffalo Bills and that WR  Brandon Lloyd would visit the San Francisco 49ers. Other than Lloyd, I didn’t see any of the above mentioned players having a remote chance of playing in New England anyway so truthfully none of the other signings was a big letdown in terms of the Patriots.

Lloyd is still a possible target for New England and so is the re-signing of RB Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis; however it is rumored that Green-Ellis is receiving some interest from other teams. But once the dust settles, that is when the Patriots usually roll up their sleeves.

Meanwhile with the Redskins setting the table with new toys for RGIII, it is possible to see the return of veteran Jabar Gaffney as the WR situation in Washington is now getting crowded and Gaffney may find himself the odd man out. He knows the system and it would be the kind of under the radar move the Patriots traditionally make.

With the Peyton Manning sweepstakes still on-going (Miami, Denver and Tenn.) the Dolphins may find themselves the odd man out. They were hoping to snag Manning in South Beach but it’s rumored that Denver is the top choice right now. Miami’s second choice is said to be Matt Flynn, who is being courted by the Cleveland Browns.

If neither one of these situations work out for Miami, it is entirely possible that the Dolphins may kick the tires on Patriots QB Brian Hoyer as he looks for a chance to start somewhere this season. Given it will take only a 2nd round draft pick and he won't command big money, it may make sense money wise for a team to give Hoyer a second look.

While Free Agency is less than 24 hours old, things are shaping up for the Patriots in the division. Don’t expect any big news from the team for a few days as they will attempt to sign their own free agents first that they wish to keep before making a dip in the free agency pool.