Safety James Sanders has slowed down and hasn’t exactly lit things up over the last two seasons with the Falcons and Cardinals, but I’m still puzzled why the Patriots released him in 2011. Given all the struggles they’ve had at safety in 2011 and 2012, and the thin depth each season, it’s hard to believe Sanders couldn’t have helped. Is Steve Gregory really an upgrade?

Patriots cut veteran safety James Sanders

For the second time this preseason the Patriots cut an old guard veteran at a position where their depth was already questionable. Both Sanders and Ty Warren had their injury issues this preseason, but where Warren no longer seemed a schematic fit, Sanders was credited just last week by Patrick Chung as being a calm, veteran presence who knew all the right calls and adjustments.

Hard to speculate why the Pats would drop him. Clearly letting him go early was to give him a chance to catch on elsewhere. But this now shines even more of a spotlight on Brandon Meriweather.

Could this open a door for James Ihedigbo? He didn’t exactly look like an All Pro against the Lions, missing a couple tackles while losing contain. And this move has to be at least a minor vote of confidence for Sergio Brown.

More than anything I think the signs are pointing to a safety acquisition in the next week, and given the cap considerations of Sanders’ contract it could be a significant player with a significant contract.

Stay tuned as always, there are sure to be lots more changes over the next 8 days. Meanwhile, thanks for the memories James Sanders, none bigger than last year’s game sealing interception of Peyton Manning.

We’re giving away two James Sanders signed pics in a co-promotion with The Meat Locker Sports Blog. Details here…

We’re giving away two James Sanders signed pics in a co-promotion with The Meat Locker Sports Blog. Details here…

Who wants it? Details here…

Who wants it? Details here…

PatsPropaganda & The Meat Locker Sports Promotional Giveaway!

We’re proud to announce that we’ve joined with the great guys of The Meat Locker Sports with a fun new promotion that comes with a nice giveaway for Patriots fans.

If you were a fan of this play you’ll like the prize:

That’s right. We have two autographs from James Sanders to give away and all you have to do to get one is tweet!

Here are the rules:

1. You recommend us to a friend–or several friends–over Twitter by composing a tweet like this…

Hello my fellow Patriot obsessed friend, you should follow @PatsPropaganda and @MeatLockerBlog for awesome commentary on the #Patriots and #NFL.”

2. If your friend then follows both of us–and keeps following for at least the duration of the promo–you and your pal will be entered with the chance to win one of these awesome photos! 

3. The MORE NEW friends you successfully recruit and get to follow The Meat Locker and Pats Propaganda, the more chances you’ll have to win. There is no entry limit.

4. Winners will be selected randomly at the conclusion of the promo on Sunday, August 14th . The Twitter handles of the winning pairs will be advertised on both blogs.

5. Prizes will be mailed directly to your preferred address, free of charge.

Tweet away, CItizens of Patriots Nation! Win yourself a treasured keepsake from the "Prototypical Patriot" James Sanders!

Which one sticks out in your head more… The pick six against Roethlisberger or the game saver against Peyton Manning?

Sanders: “Oh man, I’m going to say the game saver against Peyton Manning. I’m glad Tom (Brady) is on our team, and we just have to go against him in practice. But going against Peyton, you’ve got to give everything you’ve got because he’ll get you if you’re not prepared. To go out there and have the opportunity to help the team win in the closing minutes of the game, I’m always going to remember that one. I have the ball, and to be able to pick off a future hall of famer and to help win the game… I’ll never forget that one.”

James Sanders (with props to @thereal_KDogg37 for the question to MeatLockerSports.com)

Some interesting stuff in this article from James Sanders who we don’t often hear much from. Which pretty much confirms he’s the prototypical Patriot. It will be a big year for Sanders, as both he and Brandon Meriweather enter the last years of their contracts.

“Personally for me, I just want to improve my game each year. I know a lot of guys say it, but I just want to learn to become the best player that I can possibly be. I feel like I haven’t reached my full potential. I feel like I’m still learning more and more after each season. I just want to continue to grow in all facets of my game, run defense, pass defense, special teams… everything. I want to continue to strive to be a better player every year and I feel up to this point that I’ve been improving each year and I just aim to continue to do so. As a team, obviously the goal is to win a super bowl. I’ve come close a couple of times, but I haven’t had the opportunity to hold that trophy and get that championship ring and that’s something I still strive to earn.”

Sanders’ interception against the Colts to seal the win has to be a major career highlight for him.

James Sanders pick six versus the Steelers….

Top 5 Patriots who could be on the chopping block in 2011

The Patriots have nine draft picks in the upcoming 2011 NFL Draft and while it’s unlikely that they will take nine players there is sure to be some talented new blood at training camp this summer, including any free agent acquisitions.

What it really comes down to is replacing the “solid but not spectacular” types with guys who “could potentially develop into spectacular” types.

Let’s take a look at 5 areas where players who had a significant role in 2010 might be looking for work in September.

1. Darius Butler - What a difference a year makes. Entering training camp of 2010 Butler was penciled in as a promising second year starter across from Leigh Bodden. It’s safe to say that had Bodden not gotten hurt, Butler wouldn’t even have been the starter at RCB in week one and two where he was torched and put on the bench for most of the remaining games. When Jonathan Wilhite went to IR it opened up a dime spot for Butler and he looked okay in that role. But he’s one of the most penalized corners in the NFL.

Butler has been penalized more yards than any other New England defensive back in each of the last two seasons (84 this year and 62 in 2009). His 146 penalty yards the last two years is fifth most in the NFL among defensive backs.

In 2011 Wilhite and Bodden will be back and the logical corner lineup appears to be McCourty and Bodden as the outside guys, Arrington as the nickelback and Wilhite in a dime slot role. Butler seems more of an outside guy so it might take another injury (Hoodie forbid) for him to stick around.

Somebodies about to get Dougied on...

2. Ron Brace/Brandon Deaderick/Kyle Love Cage Match - With the return of Ty Warren, Mike Wright and Myron Pryor, along with the likely addition of at least one high round defensive lineman and possibly the re-signing of Gerard Warren, it’s likely that one, and maybe even two, of these young d-lineman could be out of a job or headed to the practice squad (not sure on eligibility).

It’s hard to tell who that would be. Deaderick and Brace both had off the field issues, while Love was undrafted but saw his playing time continue to grow as the 2010 season went on. You could make arguments for keeping or cutting just about any of them. But it’s clear that the competition along the defensive line will be fierce and that’s just the way you want it.

We're not all making it in 2011

3. Tully Banta-Cain - TBC’s big contract, lack of production, susceptibility to losing contain, and penchant for untimely stupid penalties make him a real bubble player for 2011. His extension last off-season was probably more about him being a solid-not-spectacular player who knew the system and bought into the “Patriot Way”. But that will only get you so far.

Eric Moore started over him in the playoffs, and appears to be primed for an expanded role in 2011. Jermaine Cunningham should be healthy and much improved as well, and there’s a good chance a high round OLB will be drafted. What the Patriots need is a 3-down outside linebacker and TBC is never going to be one. He’ll need a big camp to stick around. 

4. Julian Edelman - I know a lot of the readers won’t like that Juju is on this list, and the fact is he still has a very good chance of still being with the Pats in 2011, but he will need to show more consistency in training camp. He ended 2010 strong, with some great punt returns. Clearly he adds value there, but his development as a receiver slowed in 2010, making a handful of untimely drops and miscues over the course of the season. If the Patriots bring in another receiver it’s likely Brandon Tate, Taylor Price and Edelman will have a pretty good competition to make the club. Given what each brings to the table, Juju could be on the short end of the stick. Certainly if looks are part of the competition he’s a roster lock, at least according to my female readers and tweeps.

Yeah nice job, but it's coming back...

5. Brandon Meriweather vs. James Sanders - There’s a pretty good chance that both these guys will be back in 2011, but there are reasons to think that one or both might not be. Sanders is a solid, but unspectacular pro. He’s due to make $2.6 million in 2011 which isn’t a huge number but compare that to the $650K Meriweather is due to make. Both are entering the last years of their deals.

Where Sanders might be a financial casualty, Meriweather might be more of a case of his stock never being higher. Ultimately his low salary will probably save him, but he’s consistently inconsistent and is far from a lock to be the free safety ballhawk of the future. I expect free safety to be a position that the Pats could draft higher than a lot of people expect this year. If they do it could come at the expense of Sanders or Meriweather.

Thanks for helping me make the first big play of my career

Who do you guys think is most likely to not be a Pat in 2011?