(Student assistant Mike Rodak continues an early position-by-position look at free agency with the Patriots. Because free-agency rules are unclear based on the uncertain collective bargaining agreement, the 2010 rules were used to compile the information. Teams may also restrict some of these players with the franchise tag.)
RATING THE NEED: Moderate
CURRENT PERSONNEL: Brandon Meriweather, Patrick Chung, James Sanders, Sergio Brown, Ross Ventrone, Bret Lockett, Josh Barrett (restricted)
KEY CONSIDERATION: Despite back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons, Meriweather has seen his playing time drop at times due to undisciplined play. With Meriweather entering the final season of his contract, would the Patriots consider trading him? Such a move would allow Chung to take over the back end of the defense. Like the Ellis Hobbs trade made during the 2009 draft, though, the team will likely not trade Meriweather unless they are confident they have a replacement for him.
NOTABLE TARGETS ON MARKET: Dawan Landry (Ravens), Donte Whitner (Bills), Danieal Manning (Bears), Jarrad Page (Patriots), Eric Weddle (Chargers), Brodney Pool (Jets), Quintin Mikell (Eagles), Roman Harper (Saints), Abram Elam (Browns), Gerald Sensabaugh (Cowboys)
MOST LIKELY TARGET FOR PATS: Page
SLEEPER POSSIBILITY FOR PATS: Donnie Nickey (Titans)
OUTLANDISH THOUGHT FOR PATS: Weddle
WRAP IT UP: The Patriots could over-stock this position during the offseason and then swing a trade, involving either Meriweather or Sanders, during the preseason. In the end, the Patriots will look to end up with three starting-quality safeties, plus at least one special teams-focused player.