By Bruce Allen, Patriots Daily Staff

James Sanders

Solid and Steady.

Those are words often applied to safety James Sanders, who enters his sixth season with the Patriots. After his rookie deal expired, Sanders was signed to a new contract last offseason, with the Patriots seemingly making him their top priority at that time.

Then, at times last season Sanders lost his starting position and playing time to free agent signee Brandon McGowan before getting his starting job back in the final weeks of the season. The Patriots also drafted safety Pat Chung in the 2009 draft, and his progress has been noted by some observers, who feel that the second year man is ready to seize the starting strong safety role alongside Pro Bowl free safety Brandon Meriweather. They feel that Chung is a better fit for playing close to the line, and that Sanders, like Meriweather is more of a “centerfield” safety.

With McGowan also still on the roster, the safety position seems to have a lot of depth at the moment. Sanders’ name has even come up as  possible trade bait for a team looking for veteran safety help. Philadelphia has been mentioned as a possible suitor, which would reunite three members of the 2007 defensive backfield in Sanders, Asante Samuel and Ellis Hobbs.

Such talk seems a bit unlikely, given the possibility of injuries. McGowan especially has a history of getting hurt. It’s unlikely the Patriots would give up depth at such a critical position to pick up another mid-level draft pick. Sanders is also cited as a good leader, and someone who knows the defense inside and out, and does a good job communicating with his teammates about their positioning and assignments.

He may not blow your over with his coverage skills or blasting hits, but James Sanders is the type of solid veteran that the Patriots need to have around, and it seems a good bet that he will be around for the 2010 season.