Patriots & rookie free agents

ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton focuses today on the NFL's labor situation and how it affects rookie free agents.

"Undrafted doesn't mean unwanted," Clayton writes. "Although most undrafted players don't have immediate impacts on teams, their value to rosters is more immense than NFL lawyers might want to argue. As the 17-week season evolves, teams lean more and more on undrafted players because they fill for the void from the attrition caused by injury. Last year, 51 undrafted players made opening day 53-man rosters. By the end of the season, that number had swelled to 140, more than four players per team."

From this view, the Patriots are one of the NFL's best clubs when it comes to landing undrafted free-agent talent.

Every year since 2004, the Patriots have had a rookie free agent make the roster out of training camp, a streak that could be in jeopardy this year. Others have started on the practice squad before emerging later in the year.

A sampling of some undrafted players who have made the initial roster, or later emerged, in the Bill Belichick era:

2004: CB Randall Gay

2005: DL Mike Wright

2006: OLB Pierre Woods

2007: QB Matt Gutierrez

2008: RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis*, LB Gary Guyton

2009: QB Brian Hoyer

2010: S Sergio Brown*, LB Dane Fletcher, DL Kyle Love

* Started on practice squad