Former NFL general manager and current ESPN Analyst Bill Polian has unveiled his top 100 free agents (Insider content), and in doing so he tiers the players into three different levels.
His "A" players are those he deems worthy of big, starting-caliber contracts, the "B" players are those who he would sign only if the value makes sense, and "C" players are those he would sign to short-term, inexpensive contracts.
Using Polian's system as a jumping-off point, we've decided to come up with a list of Patriots free agents, broken down by "A", "B" and "C" tiers below.
Tier A Players
WR Wes Welker: His production is unmatched; the question is just how high the team is willing to go in terms of dollars.
RT Sebastian Vollmer: Right tackle traditionally isn't a big-money position, but Vollmer is one of the best in the game. Will the team tread lightly because of back concerns?
CB Aqib Talib: Cornerbacks get paid in free agency, and Talib may be the best available. Did he do enough over a few months for the team to invest in him again, be it on a short or long-term deal?
Tier B Players
WR Julian Edelman: If Welker leaves, Edelman's value could increase. He is an excellent punt returner and continually improving offensive player.
CB Kyle Arrington: Probably best in a nickel cornerback role, Arrington had an up-and-down 2012.
G Donald Thomas: A starting caliber guard who stepped up in injury situations last season.
LB Tracy White: A core special teamer who also can play in sub defense.
S Patrick Chung: Could hardly get on the field in the AFC Championship. Seems like he's run his course as a Patriot.
CB Marquice Cole: A strong special teams player, but struggled as a nickel corner in the AFC Championship.
DE Trevor Scott: The Patriots have big-time depth at defensive end, but Scott could be back as a veteran presence.
Tier C Players
WR Deion Branch: A quiet 2012, but has value in the locker room.
LB Niko Koutovides: A steady core special teamer.
WR Donte' Stallworth: Re-signed late in the season, and could be back for another shot to beef up the receiving corps.
DB Derrick Martin: Another special teams presence.
OL Jamey Richard: Spent 2012 on the injured reserve list.
DB Will Allen: Worked at both safety and cornerback during the preseason but spent the year on the injured reserve list.