Additional free-agent options for Patriots

Earlier Monday we wrote how Tom Brady’s cap-friendly contract extension helps the New England Patriots become bigger players in free agency. Brady’s three-year extension saves New England $8 million in cap room this offseason.

In addition to Pro Bowl receiver Wes Welker, here are four additional players the Patriots could have their eye on with the added cap room:

1. Safety Ed Reed, Baltimore Ravens

Thoughts: The pending free agent and future Hall of Famer is coming off a Super Bowl title with Baltimore. The Patriots’ pass defense was horrendous last year and the ball-hawking Reed could be just the right fit. Baltimore has salary-cap issues of its own with free-agent quarterback Joe Flacco, who has tremendous leverage and is looking to become the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL. The Ravens won’t have much money left after paying Flacco, making Reed a possibility.

2. Right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, Patriots

Thoughts: Yes, Vollmer is another in-house free agent. But anyone who does a good job protecting Brady is important to the Patriots. Former first-round pick Nate Solder has solidified the left side and re-signing Vollmer could solidify the right side. The only concern is Vollmer has suffered some injuries. Vollmer does a great job playing through pain, but that makes things a little murky when committing to a player long-term.

3. Cornerback Brent Grimes, Atlanta Falcons

Thoughts: The Patriots like value finds in free agency, and Grimes could be one of those players. Grimes was ascending to a top-level corner two years ago until a severe knee injury derailed his 2012 season. Grimes is rehabbing to get back to form, but the injury risk makes for a reasonable asking price. Grimes could be an affordable option if Aqib Talib’s asking price is too high.

4. Receiver Julian Edelman, Patriots

Thoughts: Edelman is another free agent New England would like to keep. He is dynamic on special teams and making strides as a slot receiver. He was viewed as the heir apparent to Welker before getting injured. The Patriots also could have their eye on West Virginia slot receiver Tavon Austin. But a fantastic combine most likely pushed Austin’s stock out of reach for New England at pick No. 29. Welker and Edelman in the slot next season may have to work.