It now appears as if Spikes is officially ready to shut the door.
Earlier today, the colorful Spikes tweeted his official goodbye.
Jason La Canfora first tweeted news of Fletcher's visit.
Fletcher joined the Patriots as a rookie free agent in 2010, and first-year Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht was the Patriots' director of pro personnel that year.
Fletcher made the switch from college defensive end to NFL linebacker, and his primary contributions came on special teams in his four-year Patriots tenure. In 2013, he played 18 percent of the defensive snaps during the regular season; when starting linebacker Jerod Mayo was lost to a season-ending pectoral muscle on Oct. 13, he was tapped to lead the dime package.
The Patriots have plans to host Broncos linebacker Wesley Woodyard on a free-agent visit Wednesday. Woodyard would be a top candidate to fill Fletcher's void.
Edelman, who is coming off a career-high 105-catch campaign, enters his sixth NFL season in 2014. The Patriots would like him to return, and Edelman has expressed a desire to as well, but the sides haven't been able to find a middle ground on a contract.
As for the Patriots' possible contingency plan, one free agent to keep an eye on is Emmanuel Sanders. The Patriots signed him to a restricted free-agent offer sheet last year, but the Steelers matched it.
Sanders is an unrestricted free agent who can sign with any team as of 4 p.m. ET.
This marks the second straight season that Edelman will become an unrestricted free agent. This time around, however, the receiver has more leverage following a 105-catch season that included 1,056 receiving yards and six touchdowns.
Edelman re-signed with the Patriots last offseason, taking a one-year deal worth a shade over $1 million if he reached all incentives -- which he did. Only the Patriots and New York Giants pursued him last year, in part because of his injury history.
Edelman, who turns 28 on May 22, noted that the big difference for him in 2013 was being able to stay on the field.
"The main thing about this year was that I had four years under my belt and 'could I stay healthy?' I haven't been able to stay healthy for a whole year," Edelman told ESPN Radio's "SVP and Russillo" program in the week leading up to the Super Bowl. "I was able to stay healthy and then guys get hurt and you're given an opportunity."
Brandon Krisztal, a sports radio producer in Denver, first tweeted about the Patriots' interest in Woodyard.
Think sub defense.
The Patriots were in sub 67 percent of the time last season and that's where Woodyard -- who at 6-feet, 235 pounds would be a smaller 'backer for the Patriots' traditional scheme -- would likely project to help most.
The seven-year veteran was a weakside linebacker in the Broncos' 4-3 alignment when 2013 training camp opened before being moved to middle linebacker. A stinger sustained against the Cowboys on Oct. 6 knocked him out of the next two games and he was later replaced in the starting lineup.
Woodyard remained a part of Denver's sub packages. One of his greatest assets is speed, which would put him into the mix on special teams as well.
The Patriots look solid at the top of the linebacker depth chart with Jerod Mayo, Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins, so we didn't project an aggressive push at that position from the Patriots in free agency. The thought was that they'd focus more on linebackers who are more core special teamers (e.g. Dane Fletcher).
In Woodyard, who played under Josh McDaniels in 2009 and 2010 with the Broncos, it's possible the Patriots could address both areas -- a linebacker/captain with impact on defense and special teams.
1. Cornerback Darrelle Revis and the Patriots' potential interest.
2. Cornerback Aqib Talib, receiver Julian Edelman and the Patriots' hopes of retaining them.
3. Potential contingency plans for the Patriots if they lose Talib and Edelman.
4. Are the Patriots doing enough to put together a championship team?
5. Following up on the Patriots' decision to release seven lower-level players on Monday.
6. Vince Wilfork and the possibility of a reworked contract.
Would the Patriots, whose top need is at cornerback, be among the teams to go after Revis if he hits the market? ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter isn’t counting out that possibility:
Two teams to watch on CB Darrelle Revis once Tampa releases him: Philadelphia and New England (Jets fans shudder).— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 11, 2014
Revis is scheduled to make $16 million next season as part of a deal that would be voided if he is released by Tampa Bay. He would instantly be the best available defensive back on the market, so his price tag will still be high for teams looking to bid on his services.
It’s not like they don’t have options. They might prefer, for example, to re-sign incumbent cornerback Aqib Talib to a multi-year deal at a lesser price, which would mean they could spend more money elsewhere to fill another need.
Which direction would you like to see them go? Vote in the accompanying poll to have your say.
Position: Offensive line
Players under contract for 2014: T Nate Solder, G Logan Mankins, C/G Dan Connolly, T/G Marcus Cannon, T Sebastian Vollmer, G Josh Kline, G/C Chris Barker, T/G Markus Zusevics, C Braxston Cave, T Jordan Devey, T R.J. Mattes.
Level of need: Moderate-to-low
Projected top targets: G Shawn Lauvao (Browns), G Shelley Smith (Rams), C Ryan Wendell (Patriots)
Why Lauvao fits: Entering the NFL as a third-round pick in 2010, he has starting experience (44 games), is 26 years old, and would add sturdy presence to any line at right guard.
Why Smith fits: A bit of an under-the-radar free agent who has reportedly drawn interest from multiple teams, he has good size (6-4, 312), is 26 years old, and possibly has some position flexibility. He entered the NFL as a sixth-round draft pick of the Texans in 2010.
Why Wendell fits: After starting at center the last two seasons for the Patriots, he knows the system and could vie to keep the job if a more lucrative market doesn’t develop for him elsewhere. Hard to imagine the Patriots extending themselves too far to retain him, but he still has value to the team.
Other names of note: T Branden Albert (Chiefs), G Zane Beadles (Broncos), OT Anthony Collins (Bengals), C Evan Dietrich-Smith (Packers), OT Austin Howard (Jets), G Charlie Johnson (Vikings), G Shawn Lauvao (Browns), OT Eugene Monroe (Ravens), OT Michael Oher (Ravens), OT Roger Saffold (Rams), T/G Will Svitek (Patriots), OT Jared Veldheer (Raiders), OT Eric Winston (Cardinals),
Franchise tag: None.
Transition tag: C Alex Mack (Browns)
Market conditions: Strong at the tackle position, where early free-agent movement is expected. It is also especially strong in the draft at tackle, with fewer top prospects among interior linemen but some solid depth starting in the second round range.
Questions to answer at the position: How will the Patriots address the center spot? How is starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer’s recovery progressing from a broken ankle? Is Marcus Cannon a better fit at right guard or right tackle?
The Boston Herald first reported the surgery.
This is obviously a setback of sorts for Dobson, a player the Patriots have big plans for after selecting him in the second round of the 2013 draft (59th overall).
It is often said that a player's biggest jump comes between his first and second seasons, in part because the player has a full offseason to devote to his craft after his rookie campaign. But Dobson's offseason, at least the early part of it, will now be more about rehabilitation.
The Patriots can begin their offseason program on April 21.
When it comes to the New England Patriots and spending money to build a championship team, there seems to be a growing misperception in some circles that misses the greater point.
Somewhere along the line, the theory that the Patriots aren't going for it, and are content to do just enough to be a playoff contender, has picked up momentum. The chatter particularly seems to intensify at this time of year when NFL teams are handing out big-money contracts with free agency set to begin.
There are two main issues with this line of thinking -- the independent financial data doesn't support it, and it overlooks the more pressing issue: It's not that the Patriots aren't spending money, it's how they're spending it.
To prove that point, let's get right to the bottom-line financial numbers.
In 2013, the NFL salary cap was set at $123 million. The Patriots' cash spending, according to sources not affiliated with the Patriots who track figures for all NFL clubs, was $129,656,000.
In 2012, when the NFL salary cap was set at $120.6 million, the Patriots' cash spending was about $168 million.
In 2011, with a salary cap of $120 million, the team's cash spending was around $130 million.
And in the 2010 uncapped year, the Patriots' cash spending was $151 million.
Edelman, of course, is a free agent who is free to sign with any team as of 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday.
The Patriots and Edelman's camp have expressed mutual interest in a contract extension, and they continue to communicate about a possible deal.
In the end, however, the market will ultimately dictate, as the Patriots' proposals haven't been enticing enough at this time for Edelman to commit to it.
Similar to last year with Wes Welker, if a deal isn't struck by the start of free agency, it could lead the Patriots to their next option. That potentially makes the next 12-18 hours a critical time for both sides.
All four were longer shots for a roster spot, with Moe the most highly touted.
Grissom and Moe spent last year on injured reserve, while Reed and McGuffie ended the year on the team's practice squad.
In addition, offensive linemen Brice Schwab and Elvis Fisher, and running back Quentin Hines were waived, per the NFL's transactions wire. Fisher and Hines were waived with a failed physical designation.
These types of "housecleaning" moves are commonplace at this time on the NFL calendar, as the 2014 league year officially begins Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET.