With the NFL’s period for signing free agents opening on Tuesday, Greg A. Bedard offers analysis on where things stand:
• Still believe that Wes Welker will be back with the Patriots, and I don’t think the timing of it (before free agency) is as important as some people think it is.
• According to multiple sources, the Patriots would like to get cornerback Aqib Talib done soon. This makes sense for a few reasons: a) the Patriots don’t have any real cornerbacks beyond Alfonzo Dennard; b) the Patriots gave up a fourth-round pick for Talib so if he walks, it would look pretty bad; c) with a flooded market at cornerback, the Patriots are probably playing the, “You should take our deal because once you get out there, your price is only going to do down” card.
• Whether Talib takes the bait could be a different matter, but like I wrote after the combine, the Patriots wants Talib back and he’s their top target at No. 1 cornerback.
• The Patriots can’t afford Dolphins free agent cornerback Sean Smith. Unless they’re laying in the weeds, it would be a longshot for them to land him.
• If the Patriots get Talib back, I would figure them to be in on guys like Keenan Lewis (Steelers), Nnamdi Asomugha (Eagles), Derek Cox (Jaguars), Quentin Jammer (Chargers), Antoine Cason (Chargers), Chris Houston (Lions) and Cary Williams (Ravens). The Patriots could pit Kyle Arrington and Brice McCain against each other at slot corner.
• It was a bold move by the Seahawks to trade for Vikings receiver Percy Harvin on Monday. The cost: a first- and seventh-round pick this year, and a mid-round pick next year, plus a new contract that’s going to worth over $10 million per season. There is zero chance the Patriots were going to pay anywhere close to that. I could see them doing it for the picks if the contract didn’t have to be adjusted and the player was fine with that (Harvin wasn’t). The Patriots have never paid at receiver, and they’re certainly not going to throw picks on top of that.
• There is a lot of chatter in the agent community that Roger Goodell’s shocking memo before the start of the legal tampering period was, at its basis, a form of collusion by the league. A handful of teams I talked to at the combine thought the three-day negotiating window would be a windfall for the players as they jacked up prices on the top free agents. Funny how that suddenly went away when Goodell issued a memo shortly before the period that scared everyone out of talking numbers. Agents are saying that the teams are now using the three-day window to their advantage by trying to get the players to take the cheaper deals in hand rather than risk losing money once the market stops. We’ve seen that with some of the deals struck over the weekend for players to stay where they are.