Roster reshaped: Reviewing the Patriots’ first week of NFL free agency

FOXBORO, Mass. (WPRI) — The first week of NFL free agency has already reshaped the New England Patriots roster, but it certainly did not start the way fans had hoped for.

Aqib Talib, who quickly became a fan favorite since his trade from Tampa Bay last year, was one of the first big names to come off the board. And naturally, the cornerback signed with New England’s current arch-rival, the Denver Broncos.

John Elway’s organization gave the 28-year-old a six-year contract on Tuesday worth $57 million, with $26 million guaranteed. While in New England, Talib was crucial to the Patriots’ secondary. However, some considered Talib to be fragile. Talib collided with former Patriot Wes Welker during the AFC Championship game, and did not return to the game.

Along with Talib, Denver also signed former Cowboy and Pro Bowler DeMarcus Ware, giving the Broncos a formidable defense on paper.

Paired with Peyton Manning’s record-breaking offense, Pats fans went into a brief state of panic. But what seemed like a pipe dream just the week before became a reality, the Patriots signed former Jets cornerback and five-time Pro Bowler Darrelle Revis. Revis had been granted his release from the Buccaneers after only spending one season in Tampa. Revis restructured his deal, locking him up for just one year, paying him $12 million. However, the deal does include an option for a second year.

Patriots fans were then quickly removed from their sense of euphoria. As expected, linebackers Brandon Spikes and Dane Fletcher left New England, signing with Buffalo and Tampa Bay respectively.

But far more notably, Vince Wilfork asked the Patriots for his release. The 11-year veteran is coming off an Achilles’ injury that cost him most of the 2013 season. He’s also entering the final year of his contract, and if the Patriots keep him, they’d owe him approximately $11 million. Supposedly, the Patriots asked the defensive lineman to restructure his contract and Wilfork was unwilling to do so. So far, the Patriots have not released Wilfork.

Then, back to the euphoria. After a day or so of conflicting reports, cornerback Brandon Browner reached a deal with the Pats Friday night, locking him up for 3 years and $17 million. The Patriots won’t see an immediate impact from Browner since he’s been suspended for the first four games for violating the league’s drug policy. The 29-year-old Pro Bowler can play safety, but will most likely play cornerback opposite Revis in the Patriots’ revamped secondary. Browner is coming from the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, but missed the end of the season due to an injury.

Solidifying the defense with two Pro Bowlers, the Patriots decided it was time to help Tom Brady. After reviewing deals from both San Francisco and Cleveland, Julian Edelman announced on his Twitter page he’d be resigning with New England. Both Pats fans and Tom breathed a sigh of relief. Edelman was far and away Brady’s top target in 2013, and set career high’s in just about every category in the absence of Wes Welker. The details of Edelman’s contract have not yet been released.

Only hours after Edelman announced he’d be coming back, the Patriots reached a deal with Carolina Panthers wide receiver Brandon LaFell. The four-year veteran has only missed four games in his career, bringing some much needed stability to the Patriots’ offense.

While the Patriots have most likely already made their biggest free agent splashes, they are nowhere near done making moves. Former Titans wide receiver Kenny Britt is still scheduled to meet with the Pats’ front office Monday, even with Edelman and LaFell under contract. Plus, plenty of players from the 2013 Patriots are still testing the market, including LeGarrette Blount and Austin Collie.

We’re still six months away from the 2014 season, so plenty more can, and will, happen.

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