Clearly, the Patriots have a Plan A. They have a blueprint of what they’d like to have happen with their Big Three of free agents, Wes Welker, Aqib Talib and Sebastian Vollmer. Plan A called for no franchise tags on the trio. All three tag hits were too pricey for the Pats’ taste. So now they have another week to continue negotiating with Welker, Talib and Vollmer with the hope of landing an extension before free agency starts March 12. And if agreements can’t be reached? The way their Plan A works, even though the players hit the open market, they won’t get what they’re looking for, they’ll turn back to a familiar place and ultimately sign with the Pats for a more reasonable price than the tag rate. Now, what if Plan A turns out a bust and the Pats lose Welker, Talib or Vollmer to teams who have the cap space and are willing to pony up some money? Plan B, of course. What might that look like? Well, even though it does look like Welker will return based on progress in the talks, let’s say he gets to free agency and is blown away by an offer he can’t refuse. What then? The Pats might opt to re-sign Julian Edelman to help solve the problem, but as we’ve seen the past few seasons, Edelman just can’t stay on the field. Danny Amendola is a free agent, and a pretty good slot guy, but he also has a history of being injury-prone. Still, he could be on their radar. The Patriots might also look toward the draft. West Virginia’s Tavon Austin was a stud at the combine, showing off his blazing speed at 4.34 in the 40-yard dash. USC’s Robert Woods is also said to be an ideal slot receiver. One other possibility is simply moving tight end Aaron Hernandez into the slot. He could also fill the role. With the likelihood the Pats won’t be picking up Brandon Lloyd’s $3 million option bonus — they have until 4 p.m. on March 17 to do so — that’s one more wide receiver spot to account for in Plan B. With Lloyd’s expected departure, it’s also an added $2.9 million in cap savings for the Pats, who are currently in the range of $22 million-$25 million under the cap.
Plenty of paths to upgrade Patriots
Boston Herald | Mar 5