Top five Patriots free agents
Five key role players Patriots risk losing
By Phil A. Perry
CSNNE.com Patriots Reporter
The 2015 offseason this is not. There are no high-priced stars with expensive contract options to consider, like Darrelle Revis. And if you're looking for big-name players the Patriots risk losing to free agency, you could be looking for some time. While there aren't many indispensable cogs slated to hit the market, there are a handful of valuable players who could be gone in 2016 if the Patriots don't re-sign them. Here are five.
1. DT Akiem Hicks
The Patriots have shown an appreciation for explosive interior linemen in recent years, and given what Hicks was able to do in the stretch run of the regular season and into the playoffs, he fits that bill. With good length and power, he provided valuable snaps once Dominique Easley hit season-ending injured reserve. It didn't cost much for the Patriots to acquire the 26-year-old, 6-foot-5, 324-pounder in a trade with the Saints during the season, but he's put himself in a position to be paid handsomely. Whether the Patriots keep him may depend on how they see their young pieces on the defensive line -- particularly potential penetrating linemen, such as Easley and 2015 third-round pick Geneo Grissom -- fitting in down the line.
2. S/ST Nate Ebner
One of the team's core special teamers, the 2012 sixth-rounder provides value as one of the team's most productive tacklers in the kicking game. He's also the personal protector on the punt team, and he's become one of the leaders of the special teams units alongside captain Matthew Slater. This has been a marriage that has worked well for four seasons, and given the Patriots won't have to break the bank to keep him, it would make sense for it to continue.
3. RB LeGarrette Blount
Blount was the team's top "big back" headed into this season, combining his 6-foot, 250-pound frame with good athleticism. The question is, to what lengths will the Patriots go to keep him going forward? The 29-year-old ended the season on injured reserve with a hip injury, and the Patriots filled that void with veteran Stephen Jackson. Though Jackson doesn't figure to be part of the solution in 2016, the team will bring back power runner Joey Iosefa on a future contract in 2016. For a group that struggled to grind out yards late in the year, Blount could be a low-cost remedy if healthy. He has thoroughly enjoyed his time in New England, meshes well with the coaching staff, and he's expressed in the past his desire to remain with the club.
4. FB James Develin
The Patriots were without the services of their 6-foot-3, 250-pound battering ram for the entirety of the regular season after he broke his tibia in a preseason game. A restricted free agent, Develin could be tendered at $1.6 million for one year, or he could strike a deal that keeps him in New England on a longer term deal. A player who contributes as a lead-blocker and short-yardage ball-carrier, Develin also has the ability to serve as a tight end in some instances and is a capable pass-catcher. He's the kind of versatile piece that offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels can use in a variety of ways, and if the goal in 2016 is to become a more balanced offense, Develin could help the Patriots get there.
5. DT Sealver Siliga
The Patriots thought so highly of Siliga back in 2014 that they used their short-term injured reserve designation on him when he suffered a foot injury earlier in the year, allowing him to come back later in the season to help clog the middle of the line of scrimmage for opposing offenses. Siliga slipped down the depth chart this season, but the 6-foot-2, 325-pound restricted free agent could provide valuable depth on the interior should anything happen to run-stuffers Alan Branch or Malcom Brown.
Others receiving votes: CB Tarell Brown, S Tavon Wilson, LB Dane Fletcher, OT LaAdrian Waddle, OL Ryan Wendell