by Scott Benson

The NFL’s new year began shortly after midnight this morning and that means the league’s free agency period is underway. The Patriots are already making news.

Asante Samuel, the 4th round pick who became a Pro Bowler, is now poised to become the highest paid cornerback in the league. He’s reportedly scheduled to visit the Eagles today. It is all but certain now that his Patriots career is over, and that New England will be faced with plugging a large hole in their defense this fall.

Secondary mate Randall Gay is another expected to move on to ‘greener’ pasture$ in the days ahead.

The Pats won’t lose everybody – Kelley Washington, the special teamer and reserve wideout, has agreed to return to the Pats, and may now find a role in the offense with the departure of Donte Stallworth. No word yet on the fate of Jabar Gaffney, who also became a free agent overnight.

Veteran linebacker Tedy Bruschi announced last night that he would return for his 13th season with the team.

Finally, there has been no announcement about the elephant in the room. The record setting Randy Moss became the NFL’s prime free agent at 12:01 a.m., but so far, no news. Veteran scribe Sid Hartman of the Minneapolis Star Tribune claims in a Friday column that former Vike Moss is signed, sealed and delivered to the Pats.

We will see. And react, of course. Stop by when you can.