The Patriots don't often make a huge splash in free agency but they do generally use it to pick up some valuable pieces they hope will provide depth. This spring has been no exception as the team has inked 13 new players - many of which are hardly household names.
Wide receiver Brandon Lloyd is easily the biggest name of the bunch and he should give an added dimension to an already potent passing attack. But what about the 12 other new Patriots? Which ones can be expected to offer significant contributions to the 2012 edition of the team?
This week's Samsonite Make Your Case examines the possibilities ...
PFW's Erik Scalavino says ...
Many of you may not have heard the name Steve Gregory before he signed with New England. Heck, it barely rang a bell with PFW when we heard the news.
What did register, at least to me, was how much the Patriots reportedly gave the erstwhile Chargers safety: three years and in the neighborhood of $9 million, if all incentives are met.
Gregory has played in the shadow of his more recognizable former teammate, Eric Weddle, in San Diego the past several years. His numbers don't jump out at you, but the Brooklyn native has been a solid contributor. Much more say, in fact, than James Ihedigbo was with the Jets before he came on board last season.
Ihedigbo was a pleasant surprise, becoming a full-time starter in the Patriots secondary by mid-season. However, that was his first extensive experience at safety in the NFL. Gregory has been at this for a while and should provide an upgrade at the position - one that is sorely needed.
How much better Gregory makes the New England secondary remains to be seen, but clearly, the team feels like he can give the unit a boost, or it wouldn't have committed to him as much as it did. At this point, I see Gregory being not just a regular contributor, but potentially a starter, by opening day.
PFW's Paul Perillo says ...
As good as the 2011 Patriots were, there were still some persistent problems on defense and they came at every level. Up front, there was very little depth beyond Vince Wilfork and Kyle Love after injuries took out several players such as Mike Wright, Myron Pryor and later, Andre Carter. Bill Belichick was aware of this and one of his first targets was former Bengals defensive lineman Jonathan Fanene.
Fanene is not a star by any means but his versatility will allow him to contribute in a variety of ways immediately. He can play inside and out and in three- and four-man fronts. He can rush the passer a bit, particularly in sub situations where he can be used as an inside rusher.
It's that last area where I believe Fanene may contribute the most. The Patriots have had key role players perform well in that type of role in the past. Jarvis Green and more recently Wright have been able to take advantage of limited opportunities by getting after the passer as part of subpackages. Fanene can fill this type of role as well.
Also, since the defensive line is currently pretty thin, Fanene may get even more chances to shine than the predecessors I already mentioned. The athletic Fanene will take advantage of these opportunities and make himself a household name in a hurry.
Now it's the fans turn to cast their vote in this week's Samsonite Make Your Case poll.