PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Defensive lineman Jarvis Green knows he will be playing football in 2010, but for the first time in his career he will aggressively consider options other than the New England Patriots.
Green, 31, is open to signing a contract extension to remain in New England, although he said that won't come before he tests the free-agent market starting March 5. His potential departure coupled with contract uncertainty surrounding nose tackle Vince Wilfork could give the Patriots' defensive line a dramatically different look in 2010 and beyond.
"Definitely this year, I'm going to experience the market," said Green, who set a career high with 12 starts in 2009. "I think for any player in their NFL career they need to experience that, and this will be my first time. I had the chance five years ago but I re-signed with the team, so this has been different for me, and it's been cool not being obligated to anyone but my family, my wife [Rakia] and kids."
At this point, Green isn't sure what the market will bear. The presence of former Patriots coaches in Kansas City (defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel), Denver (head coach Josh McDaniels) and Cleveland (head coach Eric Mangini) could help generate interest, but even beyond that, Green hopes all teams will see value in what he brings.
"Playing in a championship program, being with the Patriots, things I've learned here I could take with me -- the winning attitude, knowing how to win," he said. "That could go anywhere, and I think teams look for that in the quality of a player."
Although Green was thrust into a starting role at right defensive end in the Patriots' 3-4 alignment, a result of the Patriots' trading Richard Seymour to the Raiders, he admits he isn't entering free agency coming off his best season. He finished with 47 tackles and one sack and played in approximately 57 percent of the team's defensive snaps.
The Patriots often struggled to generate a pass rush, which in years past had been one of Green's strengths when he was a top backup and dangerous interior rusher in sub packages.
"This year was rough for me. I had four to five surgeries between the offseason and also during the season. I went through a lot of stuff people don't know about," he said, specifying that he had two procedures on his elbow, one on his wrist, one on his left knee and one on his right knee.
Green described them as "not major surgeries," but they affected him nonetheless. He missed three games during the season (Weeks 9 through 12) after undergoing a knee scope during the team's bye week.
"I went through a lot of stuff, and the first thing you understand as a football player is that nobody plays 100 percent. There is no such thing," said Green, who has appeared in 136 of a possible 143 games during his career (including playoffs) and rates the Patriots' win over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII as his top memory.
"But can I say that I ever felt like I was in my time? Here and there. After I came back from my knee surgery during the season, I felt pretty good for two to three games, but I still had my complications, the aftershocks of all my surgeries. So it feels good to have a full offseason obligated to healing up, getting back. I feel very blessed to walk away this year with no injuries."
Green, who joined the team as a fourth-round draft choice in 2002 out of Louisiana State, won't require any surgery this offseason. He said his focus at this time is to get as much rest as possible, stay in shape and be mentally prepared for all possibilities that his agent, Albert Elias, presents to him during the free-agent process.
If Green doesn't return to New England, the Patriots will have to determine whether Mike Wright, who will enter his sixth season, can be a viable full-time replacement. Assuming the Patriots remain committed to the 3-4 alignment, a longer-shot possibility would be 2009 second-round draft choice Ron Brace, although he will have to show considerable improvement from his rookie campaign.
The uncertainty along the line could make that a priority for the Patriots in the draft and possibly free agency.
As for Green, he is embracing his current uncertainty while continuing to be one of the Patriots' most philanthropic players through his Jarvis Green Foundation. On Friday, he hosted a dinner event at Ardeo at Waterplace in Providence, and plans are in the works for a fashion show in conjunction with his friend Leo Foussekis and his company, Black Tie Marketing and Entertainment.
"The Jarvis Green Foundation raises money for disadvantaged single, working mothers, those who really need it," Green said. "We're sending money to them, paying rent, putting food on the table and clothes on their back. That's very important to me, and it touches me personally with things that went on in my past in my home state of Louisiana."