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2012 NFL Free Agency: Previewing the New England Patriots

There is no way that I'm going to start writing a post about the Patriots and not make the claim that the 49ers would have killed them in the Super Bowl. Having watched the game, I think that the Patriots are one of those teams that the 49ers could easily prey upon.

But bitterness aside, it's time to evaluate where they are heading into Free Agency as they are a 49ers opponent next year. The Patriots are actually in a pretty good situation heading into Free Agency. They have a ton of cap space; this website (which looks at all of the AFC East) estimates that they have around $20 Million. Moreover, they have a lot of in-house Free Agents that they can resign and keep their strengths intact.

Mark Anderson, at only 28, had 10 sacks and could continue to improve. Bringing him back helps shore up an extremely suspect pass defense. Actually, I am pretty interested to see in what direction the Patriots go in this regards. Toward the end of the season, they started shifting some players around and the defense got better. But, with how atrocious it was to start the season, surely they are going to look toward FA for some help, especially since they have the money to do so.

On offense, the most obvious move they can make is to franchise Wes Welker. Given his success this year, the Patriots will more than likely want to just keep him on the proverbial leash. Speaking of receivers, their Front Office will have to decide whether or not to bring Deion Branch back (my instinct says that they won't) and if Chad Ochocinco is worth the cap space. They face a similar decision with Free Agent BenJarvus Green-Ellis.

Unrestricted Free Agents: Mark Anderson, Deion Branch, Andre Carter, Dan Connolly, Shaun Ellis, Kevin Faulk, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Gary Guyton, James Ihedigbo, Nate Jones, Dan Koppen, Niko Koutouvides, Antwaun Molden, Matt Slater, Gerard Warren, Wes Welker, Tracy White.

Restricted Free Agents: Brian Hoyer, Bret Lockett.