INDIANAPOLIS – Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:
1. When it comes to Patriots offensive tackle Matt Light and a potential retirement, I think that he is seriously considering it but has yet to come to a final decision. Light is under contract for $3.4 million next season, which is a bargain for the Patriots if he decides to return. I’m not sure Light is the type of player who would be enticed to return by a contract sweetener, but the Patriots could go that route in an attempt to persuade him if they feel he’s a key cog to have in 2012.
2. One theory floated at the NFL combine is that the Patriots’ AFC East rivals will be aggressive in targeting the safety spot aggressively this offseason. The reason: Rob Gronkowski. The league hasn’t seen that type of tight end matchup issue in some time, which puts more of a premium on finding a unique safety with the ability to hang with him.
3. Supply doesn’t meet demand when it comes to the tight end position in the draft this year. As noted by Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert, there were just 14 tight ends at the combine. “There’s 32 teams, so obviously there’s going to be a deficit in that talent,” he said. “They’re just few and far between coming into the league so we have to dig a little deeper.” This could result in some needy teams reaching up to secure their target.
4. With the Patriots having their top two centers (Dan Koppen & Dan Connolly) scheduled for unrestricted free agency, my sense is that they would like to lock up at least one of them before free agency begins. If they don’t, they leave themselves in a bit of a vulnerable spot.
5. Quarterback Robert Griffin III is exactly what the Browns need. Playing in the tough AFC North, where the Bengals are on the rise to join the always-tough Steelers and Ravens, the long-way-to-go Browns are in a challenging spot. A trade up to No. 2 to select Griffin, would provide some hope and a dynamic player to build around.
6. Patriots defensive end Mark Anderson’s free-agent status reminds me of Tully Banta-Cain’s in the 2010 offseason. Banta-Cain had come to New England on a one-year, prove-it deal and produced 10 sacks, which helped him land a solid three-year extension in ’10. That is almost the same way it unfolded with Anderson. With teams playing more sub packages these days, Anderson is in line for a nice raise, similar to Banta-Cain.
7. If I had to sum up what coaches and scouts from around the NFL believe the Patriots need most, based on casual discussions at the combine, the answers are an outside receiver and more athletes on defense. Some feel too much pressure is placed on quarterback Tom Brady because of those deficiencies. I’d add a kickoff returner to the list.
8. Similar to trading for Deion Branch last year, which was a situation in which Branch had more value to the Patriots than the league's other teams, free-agent receiver Brandon Lloyd is in the same category this offseason. Projecting how a receiver will transition into the Patriots' system is a challenge, but since Lloyd has already done it under McDaniels in Denver and St. Louis, that should increase the team's comfort level in pursuing him. Lloyd would add a lot to the offense and he seems to want to play in New England -- if the price is right. He's leaped over Reggie Wayne as my top free-agent option for the team.
9. Tough dilemma for Packers general manager Ted Thompson when it comes to backup quarterback Matt Flynn and deciding whether to assign him the franchise tag (link here). Too risky from this view.
10. Barring a late change, look for running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis to make it to the open market on March 13, with the possibility of his return to New England remaining open. It appears the Patriots have set a value on Green-Ellis, and it’s not at a level that has Green-Ellis ready to sign before seeing what interest he might generate on the open market.