TEAM NEEDS/OFF-SEASON STRATEGY
FRANCHISE PLAYER: CB Asante Samuel (one-year tender, $7.79).
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--OLB Tully Banta-Cain had his greatest chance in 2006, but was replaced in the starting lineup in the playoffs by a guy who'd never started a single game. Solid special-teamer and reserve in the past still has value if another team doesn't see the former seventh-round pick as a starter elsewhere.
--WR Troy Brown had his most productive season in five years and stayed healthy for all 16 weeks despite continued play at cornerback. If the 14-year vet returns for season 15 it will be in New England and would likely be welcomed on a still limited receiving corps.
--LB Don Davis had knee surgery late in the season and his medical status leaves him as a question mark moving forward. If he can play again, it'll likely be in New England as he's been one of the team's core special-teamers and leaders in recent years.
--FB Heath Evans had a solid, versatile season and wants to return to the Pats even if the money might be better elsewhere. Look for that to happen.
--MLB Barry Gardner broke his leg in camp and won't likely be asked back to a LB corps that looking to get younger and faster.
--TE Daniel Graham might be the premier tight end on the market. The offensive co-captain might look to jump ship to an offense where he can be a playmaking force in the passing game as he was at Colorado and someone will likely throw some money at him to do just that.
--MLB Larry Izzo continued to be a key playmaker and contributor as New England's special teams captain. His value is probably greater to the Patriots than elsewhere and is likely to be brought back.
--CB Ray Mickens came in off the street late in the season as a nickel back. While he might be brought back to battle in camp, he's not a part of the future in the secondary.
--RB Patrick Pass started the year on PUP, ended on IR and played in just three games registering six carries and two catches. His various roles of the past seem to be well covered by others and his time in New England may be over.
--CB Asante Samuel is coming off career-best 10 picks that tied for the NFL lead. He also returned two picks for scores in the postseason. New England chose to use the franchise tag to cover itself in the Samuel negotiations that are going to include big money either with the Patriots or elsewhere.
--P Todd Sauerbrun showed a still-strong leg in his late season injury replacement role. The bristly former All-Pro can still get the job done, but New England has Josh Miller returning from injury. Sauerbrun could be back to compete, but will likely look for a place where the job is his.
--MLB Junior Seau wants to return for an 18th season, despite ending up '06 on IR with a broken arm. Seau was New England most consistent linebacker over the first half of the season after joining the team out of a short retirement. He could be brought back as a role player and mentor, but won't be looked to as a starter any longer.
--QB Vinny Testaverde joined the team as an emergency player and went on to extend his own NFL record with 20 straight seasons with a touchdown pass. The 43-year-old won't be back, but might be available on an emergency basis for some other team again next fall.
--P Ken Walter struggled in his third tour of duty with New England as an injury replacement and won't be brought back.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--S Rashad Baker played in six games after getting claimed off waivers. More of an emergency roster addition, the three-year vet did little to increase his value moving forward.
--CB Randall Gay hasn't been able to stay healthy throughout his football career at LSU and in New England. He's shown the talent to play when healthy, but his brittle body makes him a question mark each and every season.
--G Gene Mruczkowski might be back to add camp depth, but likely won't be in the mix for a roster spot next fall after three plus seasons bouncing around the team's list of reserves.
--G Billy Yates started three of four games before breaking his leg. Started the season on the practice squad but earning a full salary. The team likes his value as an interior backup and he should be around in camp to battle for a job there.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS
--LB Eric Alexander earned his first career start in the AFC title game and is the only young linebacker on the roster that's shown any hint of development. Could battle for more playing time in '07.
--T Wesley Britt played sparingly as a backup and injury replacement.
--WR Bam Childress has bounced between the practice squad and active roster over the last two seasons, but has a limited future even on a thin Pats receiving corps.
--WR Kelvin Kight joined the team last training camp and worked his way onto the active roster, but even with size (6-0, 213) has a limited future.
--LB Corey Mays had nine special teams tackles as an undrafted free agent. Without much youth at linebacker, could battle for reps on the inside in the preseason and moving forward.
--CB Antwain Spann played in eight games bouncing between the roster and the practice squad.
--DL Mike Wright has developed into a key backup on the defensive line (four starts in 16 games played, 47 tackles) in two seasons since joining the team as an undrafted free agent. Wright also is a contributor on special teams and the team will be sure to keep him in the mix moving forward.
PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: None.
PLAYERS ACQUIRED: None.
PLAYERS LOST: None.