Beyond the Big 3: Marquice Cole

Much of the attention around pending Patriots free agents has been paid to Wes Welker, Aqib Talib and Sebastian Vollmer, three of the team's critical starters. But the Patriots have a number of other free agents who could hit the open market on March 12, and we'll use this space to review them and recap their 2012 season.

Player: Marquice Cole

Position: Defensive back

Key 2012 stats: 14 games played, 1 start, 17 tackles

Playing time (defense): 197 of 1,112 (17.7 percent)

2012 season recap: Cole began the year as primarily a core special teams player, but injuries and struggles in the secondary led to more defensive action for him. After an injury to Aqib Talib in the AFC Championship game, Cole was inserted as a nickel back, but had some struggles keeping up with the bigger, more physical Anquan Boldin. He was very good on special teams as a coverage player and a popular veteran among the defensive backs.

Outlook: Cole was signed last offseason by the Patriots after the Jets opted not to tender him as a restricted free agent. There's no reason to think the team wouldn't like him back as a special teams contributor who provides depth on the back end of the secondary depth chart.

Projection: Re-signed for 1-year, $950,000. The feeling on Cole is much the same as it was on linebacker Tracy White: He's an inexpensive, under-the-radar piece of the roster that the team values. He'd be expected to play another big role on special teams in 2013.