FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- In discussions with folks around the NFL with connections to the New England Patriots in free agency, the team has let it be known it's in the market for a receiver, tight end and running back. But as has regularly been the case under Bill Belichick, the Patriots have been more willing to wait with at least a few of their projected targets to see if the price might come down in the coming days.
Perhaps there's a wild-card in play that will lead to a quick signing, but as of now, that's the picture that was painted from reporting over the past two days as we transition from the legal tampering period that began Monday to the official start of free agency Wednesday (4 p.m. ET).
One league source theorized that the team's pursuit of offensive skill-position players was tied together.
For example, if the Patriots landed a higher-priced player at receiver (e.g. Marvin Jones, who ultimately signed in Detroit), it would put them in a lower market at the other positions. With Jones going to Detroit for a reported $9 million per season, and Mohamed Sanu reportedly close to a $7-million-per-year pact in Atlanta, the market obviously rose too high for the team's liking at receiver. Those are indeed high prices for those players, and it wouldn't have been smart for the Patriots to execute deals at that level with major contracts to address by the end of next season (linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower; defensive ends Chandler Jones and Jabaal Sheard; cornerback Malcolm Butler etc...).
So with the Patriots not landing of the top available receivers (barring an unexpected change), it could shift their approach at the other positions, or perhaps a completely different position for a quality player whose market wasn't as strong as anticipated.
As is usually the case, the market should settle after this initial blast when prices are at their height. That's usually when the Patriots pounce, and sometimes surprise.
It looks like 2016 is following a similar script.