Patriots Free Agent Targets

Patriots Free Agent Targets

by February 11, 2019 0 comments

The New England Patriots will take some time to celebrate their Super Bowl Championship over the Los Angeles Rams, but don’t expect them to rest on their laurels.

The best team in the league will only strive to get better.

This was their third consecutive Super Bowl appearance and their third championship title in the past five seasons. They have dominated the AFC East for the past decade, winning 10 consecutive divisional titles.

A huge part of the franchise’s dominance is courtesy of its preparation and due diligence. The Patriots brass won’t revel in the satisfaction of this championship for too long. They’re onto building the next championship squad.

All of the hard work and countless hours of preparation produced a championship, but not every aspect of the team lived up to “The Patriot Way” standards. The pass rush was nearly non-existent this season, with New England finishing tied for 30th in sacks. The pass defense was ranked 21st in the league and gave up the ninth most touchdowns.

The Patriots wrapped up the year tied for the ninth most receiving yards, but when you take out the running back and tight end production, the wide receivers only account for 2,747 yards. They will need to find a wide receiver that can produce and alleviate some of the attention that Edelman receives.

The NFL Combine is right around the corner, with the NFL Draft just months later. There’s no doubt the Patriots front office has already had their guys watching and evaluating the top prospects and impending free agents for months.

They have also been evaluating their own unrestricted free agents all season. Before venturing out into the market of players in free agency, the Patriots will have to look in-house at the players that could be leaving.

Notable Unrestricted Free Agents

Trey Flowers

Trent Brown

Stephen Gostkowski

Cordarrelle Patterson

Chris Hogan

Phillip Dorsett

Jason McCourty

Ryan Allen

Malcolm Brown

Danny Shelton

Notable Restricted Free Agents

Josh Gordon

Jonathan Jones

One of the top priorities for the Patriots will be to re-sign Trey Flowers. He is one of the main reasons the Patriots finished the season with the second-best team defense rating (92.2), according to Pro Football Focus.

Flowers’ overall grade of 90.4 by PFF had him tied for the third-best grade for edge rushers. He also led the team this season with seven-and-a-half sacks. New England should do whatever it takes keep Flowers on the team.

Here are some notable defensive linemen that the Patriots could be eying.

Ezekiel AnsahThe 2018 season was a disappointing outing for Ansah, who was only healthy enough to play in seven games. Even in his limited time this year, Ansah still managed to tally four sacks. When healthy, Ansah has Pro Bowl talent and is best when he can take aim at the quarterback in passing situations. The Patriots would be ideal for his style of play as they tend to get the lead and control the ball on offense with the defense pinning their ears back and rushing the quarterback.

Sheldon RichardsonThe Minnesota Vikings signed Richardson to a one-year, $8 million “prove-it deal” last season. All-in-all, Richardson had a solid, if not overlooked, 2018 campaign. The former Defensive Rookie of the Year only managed four-and-a-half sacks this season but was available for all 16 games. In fact, he hasn’t missed a game in the past two seasons. Sometimes, your best ability is availability, and if the Patriots can land him around the $8 million value that also brought him to Minnesota, it’ll be worthwhile.

Muhammad WilkersonThe Packers also had a prove-it deal in place with Wilkerson for the 2018 season. His season ended when he sustained a significant ankle injury against the Redskins in Week 3. After getting cut by the Jets two years into a five-year, $86 million contract, and a lost season in Green Bay, Wilkerson could slide into the Patriots’ starting lineup at a major discount.  

There are slim pickings as far as big-name wide receivers eligible for free agency, which is why New England will have to strongly consider staying in-house and resigning either Hogan, Patterson, or Dorsett. They could be open to signing a combination of the three, but it’s unlikely they stick with this underperforming crew. It isn’t far-fetched to also think that all three wideouts could have played their last game as Patriots.

Here are a few free agent wide receivers that New England could target this offseason.

John BrownIt’s likely that Baltimore will take a run at retaining Brown with a new contract, but the Patriots would be smart to try and lure him away. Brown hasn’t flourished in his five seasons, but he has shown flashes of brilliance when healthy. His numbers this season were solid until Lamar Jackson took over in Week 10 and Baltimore became the most run-heavy team in the league. Brown could be the downfield threat that New England has been missing since Brandin Cooks was traded to Los Angeles.

Tyrell WilliamsThe price might be too steep to pull the trigger on Williams, but he would be a perfect fit in New England. He has the talent to be a No. 1 wideout but was stuck behind Keenan Allen during his four-year stint with the Chargers. When Allen tore his ACL in 2016, Williams stepped into the starting role and truly shined while catching 69 balls for 1,059 yards and seven touchdowns. All three totals led the Chargers that season. Williams is a big-bodied receiver who runs a 4.42 40-yard dash, which is exactly what the Patriots need on the outside.

Kevin WhiteThe career of White has been marred with injuries, but he could become one of Belichick’s reclamation projects to get back on track. He showed a ton of talent in college and ran a 4.35 40-yard dash, which is why he was drafted seventh overall in the 2015 NFL draft. Even when White was healthy, he barely saw the field and is in desperate need of a change of scenery. Because of the lack of numbers so far in his career, White could be the steal of the offseason if he lands in New England.

The Patriots need to get younger at safety. Patrick Chung is going to be 32-years old and only had three passes defended this season, which tied the second-lowest total of his career. Devin McCourty will also be 32-years old next season and played really well, but this is the year to try to get a little younger in the secondary.

Landon Collins is the best safety on the market, but the likelihood of the Patriots being able to afford Collins is very low. He would be most fans’ top choice, but these two guys would be next on the list.

Earl ThomasSigning one of the greatest safeties coming off of an injury and nearing the end of his career seems like a total Patriot move. Earl Thomas is one the best sideline-to-sideline safeties in the league, but he’s coming off of two broken legs in two years. The chances that Thomas gets paid what he thinks he is worth is not realistic. He may be inclined to sign with New England at a discount in hopes of winning another championship.

Tyrann MathieuLast year, Mathieu managed to start all 16 games for the Texans, which is an accomplishment for the oft-injured safety. He dazzled while playing in Arizona for his first five seasons, and would be a perfect addition to the New England secondary. He’s only going to be 27-years old and is coming off of a terrific season in which he had 89 tackles, eight passes defended and a PFF run defense grade of 83.9. His solid numbers will likely drive his cost up this offseason, but he still might be cheaper than some of the other free agent safeties.

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