Tom Ashworth – The Patriots can't really afford to lose depth on the offensive line but it's hard to imagine the they will pay a guy a lot of money who was playing behind Brandon Gorin at the end of the season. The fact is offensive tackles – no matter how good they are – are sure to draw attention on the open market because so many teams are looking for experienced players at that position. Ashworth has versatility – he started eight games at right tackle, two games at left tackle and one game at tight end – and if a team offers him decent money, there's a good chance Ashworth could be elsewhere in 2006.
Troy Brown – This decision probably comes down to Brown himself. As a free agent last season, Brown turned down an offer from the Saints to re-sign with the Patriots. Since he had a chance to leave last year and didn't do so, it's doubtful Brown will sign with another team. He will either decide to retire or probably play one more year in New England. The Patriots will be looking for receivers this offseason and Brown's versatility and leadership would be valuable to the team, even if it were just for one more year.
Andre' Davis – Davis is one of the more interesting free agents this offseason. After coming over from Cleveland in a trade, getting released and then rejoining the team in October, Davis did some good things for the Patriots. He's never going to be a dominant NFL receiver but Davis is a solid deep threat and valuable special teams player. He probably won't get many offers from other teams and with the Patriots looking to reload at the receiver position, there's a strong chance the team will re-sign Davis for at least one more season.
Tim Dwight – Dwight made a couple of big catches during the regular season but he didn't provide the kind of spark as a return man the Patriots were hoping for. If the Patriots re-sign Davis and Brown, Dwight will almost certainly be gone but if they lose more receivers than they can replace, there's a chance Dwight could return to be the team's third or fourth receiver. Most likely, however, Dwight will be playing for his fourth team in eight years come opening day.
Heath Evans – Evans was signed as a street free agent on Nov. 1 and gained 158 yards in his first two games with the Patriots but did very little after that. The Patriots are expected to upgrade the running back position this offseason so the chances of Evans being with the team next year are slim.
Christian Fauria – This is another tough one to call. Fauria is 34-years old and is the Patriots third tight end playing behind Ben Watson and Daniel Graham but there's still a chance he could be back with the team. The Patriots run a lot of two and three tight end sets so they really need three good tight ends on their roster. This is a bad year for free agent tight ends so unless the Patriots select a young prospect in the middle rounds of the draft, there is a good chance Fauria could sign a one-year deal and play a final season in New England.
Doug Flutie – Flutie will most likely retire and not be back with the team. Expect the Patriots to sign a veteran free agent at the quarterback position to compete with Matt Cassel for the right to backup Tom Brady.
David Givens – Now we get to the most important free agent the Patriots have this year. Givens has been a big part of the Patriots Super Bowl runs over the years and he – along with Deion Branch – gives the Patriots a solid 1-2 punch at the receiver position but keeping Givens in New England won't be easy. Reggie Wayne is the top free agent wide receiver this year but the Colts have already said publicly that the team will re-sign him. That leaves Givens as the cream of the crop when it comes to the receiver position. The Patriots have always been a team that refuses to pay a player more than what they determine they're worth. Givens is going to get some big-money offers on the open market, which means the Patriots will be looking for a No. 2 receiver this offseason. They'll make a run at Givens but will probably get outbid by a team in desperate need of receiving help.
Stephen Neal – Neal is an interesting player. Guards don't normally get huge contract offers in free agency but Neal is sure to draw a lot of attention should he make it to the open market. Don't expect the Patriots to let it get that far. Neal is one of the most well-respected, consistent linemen the Patriots have on their roster and they could tie him up before the free agency period begins to avoid other teams from coming in and stealing him away. Besides, if they decide they aren't going to keep Ashworth, it would be too much of a blow to lose Neal as well. Neal is a strong candidate to be one of the free agents that returns to the Patriots in 2006.
Ross Tucker – Tucker was signed at the end of the year to provide depth on the offensive line. He has versatility – being able to play all three positions on the line – but unless he showed the coaches a lot of potential in his brief time with the team, don't expect the Patriots to re-sign Tucker.
Adam Vinatieri – The best clutch kicker in the NFL is asking for a lot of money but it's hard to believe the Patriots won't pay him. Kickers often get overlooked but you can't put a number on the kind of impact Vinatieri has made for the Patriots. Just think how many important, pressure kicks he's made over the years. Ask the Colts the difference between a kicker making a regular field goal and making one with everything on the line. They will probably tell you there is a big difference. Call up Bill Parcells and ask him what he thinks the Cowboys record would have been this season if he had Vinatieri as his kicker. Teams hate to ante up and pay kickers but Vinatieri is not just a run-of-the-mill kicker. He's a special player and the Patriots know that so it's doubtful he'll be leaving New England any time soon.
Tom Brady has opted to sit out of this year's Pro Bowl and will be replaced by Chiefs quarterback Trent Green.