Potential Targets in Free Agency for the Patriots

With the NFL’s new year dawning upon us. Lets take a moment to take a look at who the Patriots front office may be contacting when the clock strikes midnight.

There is a moratorium on when the deals can actually be signed, but reports of deals will be flying left and right come Monday if past years are any indication. The reputation is that Belichick doesn’t pay for premium players, especially on the free agent market. There have been some notable exceptions though such as Rosevelt Colvin, Adalius Thomas, and most recently Stephon Gilmore.

The team has glaring needs positionally at wide receiver and defensive tackle. Glaring in terms of both quality and quantity. There is certainly a case to be made that adding some tight end depth is a need with Rob Gronkowski nearing the end of the line, and Dwayne Allen having taken his talents to South Beach. While the safety position has been an area of strength in recent years, adding a bit of youth is needed, but that likely comes in the draft.

We’ll provide some brief reasoning for why these players may be a target.

QUARTERBACKS: 

None- With Brady and Hoyer on the roster, and Danny Etling signed to a futures deal after a year on the practice squad, there isn’t a need to add a veteran QB at this point

RUNNING BACKS: 

Jeremy Hill– After a season ending injury in game 1 of the season, Hill could be a low risk target. Short money deal to get onto the 90 man camp roster, and see how it goes

Benny Cunningham – An emergency type running back who would be a high end special teams contributor. Think of a better version of Brandon Bolden.

randall cobb

WIDE RECEIVER:

John Brown- Brown will be 29 when the season rolls around. A deep threat who isn’t a one trick pony. He’s never had the opportunity to play with a QB anywhere near the caliber of Brady, and after a down year, could be a steal.

Kevin White – Still just 26 years old, the former first rounder only has 25 career catches. A lot of that is due to never being healthy. We know Belichick loves taking flyers on former first rounders: Kenny Britt, Anthony Gonzalez, Cordarrelle Patterson, Philip Dorsett, etc.

Randall Cobb – The former Packer is coming off a not so great year, but is skilled, can play inside or out if needed. He’d be the biggest splash name on this list. People love the idea of Golden Tate, but between age, and cost vs. upside I’d think Cobb would be the better get.

Leonte Caroo – The former 3rd rounder would be a depth signing. But he played for Rutgers, and plays special teams.

Cordarrelle Patterson – Technically a wide receiver, he’s really only used out wide in emergencies only. Then again, he was also used as a running back in emergencies. A swiss army knife player who made consistent contributions in the return game. He had his most impactful year last year under Belichick, and I expect him to be back.

Chris Hogan – The former Hard Knocks star didn’t step up as expected with Julian Edelman out to start the year. But if the price is right for him to return as a 4th or 5th receiver a reunion is certainly possible

Cody Latimer – The former Broncos and Giants receiver is a decorated special teamer. He’s the type of guy signed in late March that nobody notices, that chips in with a 5 catch 80 yard game in October that makes people take notice.

Pierre Garcon- The former D3 player out of Mount Union (he started his career at Norwich in Vermont, a military school, so he knows about discipline and how to “Do His Job”) has bounced from Indianapolis to Washington to San Fran. At this point in his career he’d be a short money veteran. Anthony Gonzalez, Reggie Wayne. This wouldn’t be the first time they’ve targeted someone who originated in the Manning-Colts offense.

Adam Humphries– There has been much written online and in the media about how Humphries “fits the Patriots mold”. Which is code for him being a white wide receiver. He is a good slot receiver who would be helped by playing under Josh McDaniels and with Tom Brady. But at 26 years old, and established, I don’t consider him a hidden gem like Wes Welker, or Julian Edelman were. His market is likely to be more than New England is willing to pay. But I’m sure they’ll kick the tires.

Jamison Crowder – A shifty slot receiver who has flashed glimpses, and likely has been hamstrung by a poor system in Washington. He feels like more of a buy lowish breakout star to me than Humphries does.

TIGHT END: 

Maxx Williams – The former Raven never reached his potential in Baltimore. Injuries have plagued him throughout his career, but he had loads of talent coming into the league. While he isn’t the answer as to who is Gronk’s heir, he is a solid depth option. Get him on the 90 man, and see how he looks in camp.

Tyler Eifert – When on the field Eifert has been an outstanding red zone threat. His injury history suggests a short money, incentive laden type deal. But the thin free agent market for tight ends this season may mean someone overpays.

OFFENSIVE TACKLE – 

Cameron Fleming – A familiar name. He spent the 2018 season in Dallas on a one year deal. Between he and Waddle last off season, one came back to fight for the left tackle job and worst case fall into that swing tackle role, and the other bolted for Dallas. With both now free agents, if Waddle looks for greener pastures, Fleming could be a cow coming home.

LaAdrian Waddle – Should Trent Brown move on I expect that Patriots will draft a tackle in the mid rounds as a swing tackle and possible heir to Marcus Cannon. But they’d also be looking to keep a vet around just in case. If Waddle is okay with the role, I’d expect him back.

Trent Brown – historically, Belichick has liked his left tackles to enjoy a year of apprenticeship as a swing tackle before settling in on Brady’s blind side. Its what Matt Light did, and what Nate Solder did. I also believe its what they hoped to do with Antonio Garcia in 2017, and subsequently Isaiah Wynn in 2018. With Wynn missing the 2018 season, they may look to make 2019 his year as a protégé. If they were able to sign Brown to a reasonable deal, I think they’d like to have Wynn swing in 2019 before he replaces Cannon in 2020. BUT I also think that with Cleveland sending Kevin Zeitler to New York, that they’ll kick Austin Corbett inside permanently and back up the brinks truck for Trent Brown.

Cameron Wake

DEFENSIVE END:

Benson Mayowa – The former Seahawk, Raider, Cowboy, and Cardinal has bounced around a bit. A solid build, he can provide a bit of pass rush, and can play the run. He’s not Trey Flowers, but he also would be cheaper than Adrian Clayborn.

Andre Branch – A cap casualty of the Dolphins, Branch is a solid veteran when he’s been able to be on the field. If Flowers were to leave, his addition would be a depth piece to play opposite of Wise. Remember, that while yes, they added Michael Bennett, that some of Bennett’s best play has been as an interior pass rusher, and depth on the outside is still an area of concern.

Cameron Wake – Another former Dolphin, Wake is very long in the tooth. He would be a situational player only. Think James Harrison, or Andre Carter. Belichick has long respected Wake, and him traveling north to end his career chasing a ring shouldn’t shock anyone.

John Simon – Brought in during the middle of the year, Simon showed that he can play in the system and could really benefit with a full off season and training camp. A nice veteran rotation piece who hopefully enjoyed the ride last year.

Trey Flowers – The perception that Belichick doesn’t pay players simply isn’t accurate. Hightower, McCourty, Gostkowski, Gronkowski, Gilmore and others have all gotten PAID. What he hasn’t done is overpay future production because of past performance. At 26 years old though and not one dimensional, I’m not sure Flowers’ best days aren’t in front of him, and I’m not sure they’re not in New England.

Alex Okafor – The Saints defensive end has 22 career sacks and was a key contributor to New Orleans’ improved defense. Still just 28 years old, he likely has a couple more years in the tank. More of a C level type player, he would be a nice rotation piece.

Vinny Curry – A cap casualty in Tampa Bay. Curry was a big free agent get for the Buccaneers just a year ago. He’ll be 31 when the season starts, but fits the mold of big ends who are versatile enough to bounce inside when needed. He paired with Bennett in defeating the Patriots in the Superbowl, maybe he can pair with him again to win another.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Domata Peko – The 34 year old run stuffer would be an excellent veteran addition to the defensive tackle rotation. Especially if they decide to move on from both Malcom Brown and Danny Shelton. Adding a wide body like Peko to Lawrence Guy and Adam Butler would go a long way towards shoring up the position. Add a tackle in the draft, and you’re good to go. At this point Peko would be fairly cheap.

Malcom Brown – The former first rounder has been solid, but not great for the Patriots. He certainly wasn’t good enough to warrant what his 5th year option would have cost. But if the money is right, he could certainly return. The issue is that 3 time champions tend to get overpaid for their championship experience by other teams.

Daniel McCullers – McCullers is a big boy that has been playing in Pittsburgh. Not a big name, he could certainly aid up the middle. A Peko/McCullers rotation would be cheaper than Brown/Shelton and I’m not sure it wouldn’t be more productive.

Bennie Logan – At 29, Logan has carved out a solid NFL career. He’s spent time with the Eagles, Chiefs, and last year he was a Titan. Weighing in around 315 pounds, he’d be a big addition to the middle of the defense.

Earl Mitchell – Having done one tour of duty in the AFC while with the Dolphins, Mitchell may relish the chance to make a playoff run after having made some money losing in San Fran. A stop gap solution, he could provide value in 2019

Malik Jackson – Jackson was a big signing for the Jaguars just a few off seasons ago. His release was more about his big impact on the salary cap than it was about lack of impact on the field. It wouldn’t shock if he attempted to reunite with Wade Phillips in Los Angeles, but the Patriots should at least reach out. He is a 3 down tackle as he is good against the run, and provides a nice push in the pass rush.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

Thomas Davis – There isn’t a great selection of guys out there for a 4-3 defense (and yes, the Patriots play so many variations its more of a 4-3, 4-2, 3-2, 27-9, etc.) unless you’re willing to break the bank for a pass rusher like Anthony Barr. Davis would be a veteran addition in the vain of Cameron Wake, or Junior Seau in his Patriot years. A short money veteran looking for a ring playing situationally.

Albert McClellan

INSIDE LINEBACKERS

Albert McClellan – The Ravens loss was New England’s gain in 2018. McClellan was outstanding on special teams. While not a spring chicken, I’d be shocked if the Patriots didn’t at least bring him back to training camp on the 90 man. At this point his linebacker usage is more Jonathan Freeny than Dont’a Hightower, he is still good enough to add a layer of depth to the position.

CORNERBACKS: 

Jason McCourty – McCourty was good, not great in his one year in New England, but for his cost, it was a fantastic return on investment. If he is willing to return for year 2 with his brother Devin on a team friendly deal I’d think they’d love to have him. Aside from Gilmore the corner position is stocked with youngsters Keion Crossen, Duke Dawson, and J.C. Jackson. Keeping a veteran voice around for another year is a good idea

Jason Varrett – The former first rounder for the Chargers has been good, but injury plagued. He could be a nice buy low candidate. If he were healthy, he, Gilmore, Jackson would be a daunting trio for receivers to line up against. If he didn’t have an injury history, he wouldn’t possibly be in the Patriots economic range.

Jonathan Jones: With all the talk about New England’s undrafted rookie success with regards the Malcolm Butler and J.C. Jackson, it is Jones who gets overlooked. He’s developed into a very good slot corner, and terrific special teamer. With 2018 2nd rounder Duke Dawson waiting in the wings, will he price himself out of the Patriots market?

SAFETY

Tyrann Mathieu – He is PROBABLY too pricey for New England. But with the plethora of safeties on the market this year, and McCourty/Chung both getting up there in years, especially in terms of NFL secondary members, it’d make sense that New England would review the market, and Mathieu is a flat out play maker.

KICKER

Stephen Gostkowski – Based upon the sketchy play of kickers around the league it wouldn’t shock if someone stepped in with a grandfather offer for Gostkowski. If I’m the Bears I’m knocking on Gostkowski’s door at 12:01 tonight. For the Patriots and the kicker free agent market, I think its Ghost, or the draft.

PUNTER

Ryan Allen – If the deal is reasonable a reunion makes sense for both sides. But I also don’t see this as a position that Belichick will overpay. Not to say he doesn’t value the position, just that he thinks he can find quality without paying a premium. Which history has shown him to be correct.

So there it is, a quick primer of what names you could hear in the next few weeks coming through Foxborough.

 

  • Written by Jason Sullivan
  • Find us on Twitter at @TopDucker or on Facebook at You’re Ducking Right

 

 

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