While all of those players are perfect fits with the Patriots, the favorite to sign in New England should be the Baltimore Ravens' Ed Reed. Reed is past his prime, but just won his first Super Bowl ring and has always been a favorite of Bill Belichick. Reed is 34 years of age and would offer the Patriots a similar addition to that of Barber, except in a different style on the field. While Barber is a tough tackling underneath safety, Reed has built a career on patrolling behind cornerbacks and linebackers while reading situations to create turnovers. Depending on whether Tavon Wilson develops into a starter or not, the Patriots could sign Reed and another of the free agents available or look to an early round of the draft to add a starter to the position.
Even though all of the names listed play the safety position differently, in fact there is a mixture of free safeties and strong safeties on the free agent list, the Patriots are only searching for talent rather than specific role fits. Today's passing NFL with a focus on physical specimens at tight end requires all safeties to be very versatile regardless of their reported position. Strong safeties must be able to run, while free safeties must be big enough to stick to tight ends. The differences between the free and strong safety positions are fading into extinction as the game continually evolves. There is a premium on talent in today's secondaries opposed to finding role players who can mesh together into a until capable of containing opposing offenses.
The Patriots have plenty of options at safety this off-season, but Bill Belichick can't afford to go the cheap route like he did last season. Abram Elam, Jim Leonhard, Chris Crocker and Chris Hope may offer various levels of value to different rosters, but the Patriots have plenty of players of that caliber on the back-end. Steve Gregory and Tavon Wilson will be under contract unless released, while Devin McCourty will fill some role whether that be at cornerback or safety. Ras-I Dowling will also return, although anything from him will be a bonus considering his injury-plagued career so far.
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