By Bruce Allen, Patriots Daily Staff

WR Sam Aiken

After five seasons with the Buffalo Bills, Sam Aiken was signed by the New England Patriots prior to the 2008 season. Viewed as an outstanding special teams player, and someone who can be put into the mix at wide receiver, the 6-2, 215 Aiken, who will turn 30 years old in December was voted the special teams captain prior to the 2009 season. Because of the ineffectiveness of Joey Galloway and injury to Julian Edelman, Aiken found himself featured in the receiving game more than at any point in his career during the 2009 season. He finished with 20 receptions for 326 yards and two touchdowns.

Most early roster predictions have Aiken as a lock to make the final 53-man roster in 2010. Should he be? Many of the projections have Aiken as part of the wide receiver group, pushing out someone from the group of David Patten, Tory Holt or Brandon Tate – most have Patten as the one not making the squad.

I talked about this a little bit in my previous post about Pierre Woods and Eric Alexander, but the question comes down to carrying special teams guys. Aiken does seem to bring a bit more to the team than just his special teams skills, as a captain, he has shown leadership – another focus of this offseason – and his production in the passing game, while not awesome, was acceptable. I never had faith though, that when the ball was thrown his way, especially on a deep route – which seemed to be case quite a bit of the time – that he would actually come down with the ball.

In thinking about this, I began to wonder if the drafting of Devin McCourty could have an impact on Aiken’s roster spot.  McCourty is known for his special teams skills, some of which might cross over with Aiken’s. With the uncertainty in the receiving corps, with Welker’s injury, Brandon Tate’s development, and Torry Holt’s acclimation to the system, there is a need to a receiver who can be counted on to be where he is supposed to be, and to catch the ball. If the Patriots feel McCourty can take Aiken’s spot on special teams, does this allow them to keep Patten as insurance? After all, in an offense that is based on the arm of Tom Brady, you’ve got to have reliable receivers, and if Welker is out to start the season, and Holt struggles to pick up the system, or is just done, like Galloway, and you’ve cut Patten, then Aiken could be thrust back into the receiving mix with the inexperienced trio of Edelman, Tate and Taylor Price.

That’s not something I want to see at this point. I think Aiken brings a lot to this football team, and whenever I’ve heard Bill Belichick talk about Aiken, he’s got high praise for him. They seem to like him down there, and I could very well see him on this team in 2010. In fact, I think he will be on this team. I just don’t know that it should be a lock that he is, and that there are factors that need to be considered when putting the final 53 man roster together.