FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The team-building portion of the New England Patriots' offseason has officially begun, which means turning attention to free agency and players whose contracts are expiring.
With this in mind, here is one viewpoint of the Patriots players who will have the most value on the market:
1. DT Akiem Hicks -- He fits the criteria of what many teams view as the ideal free agent -- good size (6-foot-4, 324 pounds), entering his prime years (26 years old), good playing strength, and he plays a premium position. His situation reminds me a little bit of Desmond Bryant when he was an unrestricted free agent after four years with Oakland (2009-2012) and cashed in with a nice deal with the Browns.
2. S Nate Ebner -- A safety whose primary contributions come on special teams, he would be a natural target for a team like the Texans, who had their struggles in the kicking game in 2015. The Patriots, where Matthew Slater's average of $2 million per season is the ceiling for core special-teams player, would also like him back.
3. OT LaAdrian Waddle -- The 6-6, 328-pound Waddle recently said he'd like to return as he enjoyed the first-class setup around the team. He is a restricted free agent, but since he wasn't drafted, that essentially makes him unrestricted unless New England tenders him at a higher level (which is unlikely). He rises on the list based on positional value.
4. DT Sealver Siliga -- A one-time starter who slipped to No. 4 on the depth chart, he is a restricted free agent in a similar situation to Waddle because he entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent. He fell out of favor after the first six games of the season in New England, but players with his size (6-2, 325) and strength usually find a way on to some NFL roster.
5. RB LeGarrette Blount -- The 29-year-old running back is coming off a season-ending hip injury and hasn't had as much success away from New England, which could lessen his value on the market.
6. FB James Develin -- Coming off a broken right tibia that landed him on injured reserve in August, the hard-charging Develin is a restricted free agent in a similar category as Waddle and Siliga because he entered the NFL as an undrafted player. The Patriots must decide whether to tender him at $1.6 million or try to work out a deal similar to what they struck with Brandon Bolden, who was in a similar spot.
7. CB Tarell Brown -- A veteran cornerback coming off a season-ending foot injury, he's likely looking at an incentive-laden deal closer to the minimum at this point.
8. G Ryan Wendell -- After an illness knocked him out of the early part of the season, he returned but then injured his knee and was placed on IR. Given that dynamic, and where he is at this point of his career, he's likely going to be closer to a minimum type of deal.
9. S Tavon Wilson -- Entering his fifth NFL season, he's shown the ability to make plays on special teams and as a dime linebacker.
10. LB Dane Fletcher -- A special-teamer who adds depth on defense, he missed 2015 while recovering from a torn ACL.