Mid-season pick up Sealver Siliga was perhaps the best in a good class of Patriots' free agents
At the beginning of the regular season, the New England Patriots had one of the most talented and deepest rosters in the National Football League...

But by the time midseason rolled around, they had lost several starters to injury - both season ending and chronic - blown through their depth and were working on the third level with free agents that no one else wanted, so some would consider it a miracle that the Patriots made it to the AFC Championship Game - a contest where their injuries and limitations caught up with them and ended their season.

Free agent signings had a major impact on the success of this team and, in some cases, a direct impact on their ultimate failure, and now that the New England's season has "crash landed" as coach Bill Belichick would say, it's time to hand out the grades to the free agents that helped make and break the 2013 season:

Ryan Allen, Punter (A) - An undrafted free agent, Allen was brought into camp to give incumbent punter Zoltan Mesko competition - and ended up taking his job.  Allen punted 76 times for the sometimes offensively challenged Patriots, averaging a decent net average of 45.9, while Mesko bounced around the league, ending up on the Bengals' final roster.
Allen had a great season after unseating Mesko

Sealver Siliga, Nose Tackle (A) - Mired on practice squads between San Francisco, Denver and Seattle for the first two years in the league, the Patriots signed him in late October to their practice Squad - but when the Broncos came calling and wanting to sign Siliga to their active roster following their loss to the Patriots, Belichick activated him and he immediately solidified the interior run defense.  He, together with Chris Jones, figure to be part of an impressive rotation at tackle next season.

James Develin, Fullback (A-) - A defensive end in college, Develin played in the Arena League for a year, then semi-pro ball for another season before latching on with the Bengals practice squad for two seasons.  Coach Bill Belichick brought Develin on board as a Fullback during the preseason and turned out to be one of the better stories of the season.  Though his main purpose with the offense was to open holes for the running backs, Develin made an impact - not to mention the highlight reels - with full effort running, catching and blocking.
Develin was vital to the running game

Chris Jones, Defensive Tackle (B+) - Another positive story for the Patriots as they picked him up on the rebound from Tampa Bay after they waived him following their second regular season game. Jones played in 13 games - starting all 11 after Tommy Kelly went down - and ended up leading all rookies in the NFL in sacks with six and recorded 61 total tackles.

Tommy Kelly, Defensive Tackle (B/incomplete) - Impactful from the outset, the 6' 6" 310 pound rush tackle picked up on the skids from Oakland registered 2.5 sacks, a fumble recovery and 22 total tackles before being lost for the season with a knee injury against Cincinnati in week 5 - accused at times by the Bay Area Press of being lazy, Patriots' fans saw nothing in his short time on the field to confirm those reports.

Josh Kline, Guard (B) - After going undrafted, the Kent State product signed with the Patriots right after the draft concluded and spent half of the season on the practice squad before being called into service replacing left guard Logan Mankins, who had slid over to play tackle when Nate Solder went down with a concussion.  Kline filled in admirably, earning a start in the following game and playing well enough in spot duty to end the season as the primary backup for both guard positions.

Kenbrell Thompkins, Wide recever (B-) - Another undrafted rookie, Thompkins became the story of training camp and easily made the intiial roster - coming out of the gate as one of quarterback Tom Brady's favorite targets, Thompkins caught the majority of his 32 passes for 466 yards and four touchdowns during the first half of the season before nagging injuries relegated him to the bench for the most part.
Thompkins (85) did well when healthy

Matthew Mulligan, Tight End (C) - Another in-season pick up, Mulligan served primarily as an inline blocking tight end, though he made his mark as a pass catcher a couple of times.  His largerst contribution coming as the focus of former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan's various youtube rants, voicing his support for Mulligan and the Patriots.  His future is uncertain and probably directly tied to the health status of Rob Gronkowski.

Joe Vellano, Defensive Tackle (C) - a try-hard undersized defensive tackle, Vellano was frequently overwhelmed at the point of attack in the middle of the line.  He managed two sacks and 59 total tackles in giving full effort, but is truly a develpomental project.

Andre Carter, Defensive End (C/incomplete) - Picked up to be a veteran presence in late October after the defense had lost it's two captains in Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo, the 34-year-old Carter played sparingly in nine games, but still registering two sacks, two passes defensed and four total tackles.

Austin Collie, Wide Receiver (C/incomplete) - Signed and released twice, Collie ended up on the
Amendola couldn't shake the injury bug
Patriots' final roster due to nagging injuries in the receiving corps - ironic, given that Collie himself had become a major injury risk due to a series of concussions.  Nevertheless, Collie played sparingly but became somewhat of a Johnny-on-the-spot for the offense, as each of his six total catches had significant positive impact at critical junctures of the game that he played.

Danny Amendola, Wide receiver (C-) - Signing with the Patriots at the start of the free agency period, Amendola did nothing to shake the "Fragile" image that he had earned in his previous years in the league - always giving full effort, his playing style was conducive to injury and limited him to playing 12 games, but having a significant impact in just a handful.  A major disappointment that may or may not be around when training camp starts in July if reports of discord between he and Brady are to be believed.

Will Svitek, Tackle (C-) - Despite being lit up in preseason, Svitek produced workman-like efforts as a swing tackle backing up Marcus Cannon - but the fact that Cannon was forced to play the edge instead of his natural guard position has many doubting Svitek's presence with the club next season.

Adrian Wilson, SS (F) - Nice thought by Belichick, bringing in the aging veteran to solidify what had been a shaky coverage corps underneath - and with linebacker size, how could he miss?  Well, miss he did as Wilson ended up on the season ending IR - probably never to suit up again.

Leon Washington, RB/KR (F-) - This one made zero sense at the time of his signing and makes even less sense nearly a year later.  With Matthew Slater, Nate Ebner and Tavon Wilson already designated special teams' players - and combined with specialists Danny Aiken, Ryan Allen and Stephen Gostkowski - the Patriots already had six roster spots taken for one-dimensional players with no real value anywhere else.  Active for just two games, Washington returned one kickoff for 19 yards, which comes out to $63,158 per yard. A monumental failure.

 Other free Agents earning incomplete grades: T Chris Barker, LB Ja'Gared Davis, S Kanorris Davis, CB Justin Green, LB Chris White, DT Cory Grissom, WR T.J. Moe, C Braxston Cave, T Jordan Devey, WR Reggie Dunn, G R.J. Mattes, WR Sam McGuffie, WR Greg Orton, LB Taylor Reed.

Michael Hamm 1/29/2014 02:00:00 PM Edit

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