(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: Devin McCourty, Leigh Bodden, Kyle Arrington (exclusive-rights), Darius Butler, Jonathan Wilhite, Tony Carter, Thad Turner
KEY CONSIDERATION: Safety Patrick Chung often filled the role of the slot cornerback in 2010, but long-term the Patriots would most likely prefer to have a natural cornerback play the position. Butler’s up-and-down 2010 season brings no assurance he can be that player. If the team feels that neither Arrington nor Wilhite could fill that role, then they could look elsewhere.
NOTABLE TARGETS ON MARKET: Brent Grimes (Falcons; restricted), Richard Marshall (Panthers), Stanford Routt (Raiders), Carlos Rogers (Redskins), Brian Williams (Falcons), Drayton Florence (Bills), Ike Taylor (Steelers), Chris Carr (Ravens), Ronde Barber (Buccaneers), Chris Houston (Lions), Brandon Carr (Chiefs; restricted)
MOST LIKELY TARGET FOR PATS: B. Williams
SLEEPER POSSIBILITY FOR PATS: Corey Graham (Bears)
OUTLANDISH THOUGHT FOR PATS: Nnamdi Asomugha (Raiders), Johnathan Joseph (Bengals), Champ Bailey (Broncos)
WRAP IT UP: If Bodden is able to return to 2009 form, then the Patriots could have their best duo at cornerback in many years. Depth is the question.