The free agency pool has been picked through for the past few weeks and many of the best players already signed with various teams.
While the top guys may be gone, there is still plenty of talent available that could help the Patriots add depth and stability for the future.
Here are three players New England should sign before the season starts:
Tre Boston, Safety
Boston is an underrated and highly talented safety that has bounced around during his young career. He started his career with the Carolina Panthers where he had three successful years but didn’t secure the contract he thought he deserved. He moved onto Los Angeles to play with the Chargers on a one-year deal and managed to pick off five passes. This led to another one-year prove-it deal worth $1.5 million with the Arizona Cardinals.
Boston had an excellent year in Arizona, recording three interceptions and finishing fourth on the team with 79 tackles. He also had nine pass breakups in coverage which led the Cardinals defense in 2018. Boston has a valuable skill set that allows him to be effective all over the field. He is able to line up as the box safety, slot corner, or deep safety which would allow Belichick to use Boston in a variety of ways.
At 26 years old, Boston would add some much-needed youth to a defensive backfield that has a pair of 31-year olds in Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty at safety. In certain situations, Boston could help on the outside where Jason McCourty, also 31, is another player getting a little long in the tooth. It is not only his youth but his dependability that makes him an attractive option at safety. Boston has only missed three games in the past four seasons, making him a trustworthy free agent acquisition.
Tre Boston certainly earned himself a contract worth more than the $1.5 million that Arizona paid him last season. If the Patriots doubled the yearly income to $3 million and made it a multi-year deal, it could be enough to lure Boston to Boston (area).
Maxx Williams, Tight End
Williams has failed to develop into the pass catching weapon that Baltimore had envisioned when they drafted him in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft. In four seasons, Williams has only managed to catch 63 passes for 497 yards and three touchdowns. He played in 13 games (six starts) in 2018, catching 16 passes for 143 yards and one touchdown.
It is unlikely that Williams will suddenly become a feared receiving threat five years into his career, but he still has the chance to be a valued contributor in multiple ways. In the Patriots’ offensive scheme, Williams would be priceless as a blocker in two-tight end sets. Pro Football Focus had him rated as the seventh-best run blocker in 2018. He could also be utilized as an effective dump-off option in the flats as Tom Brady routinely uses quick passes to move the chains. Although his production was limited last season, Williams did manage to average a career-high 8.9 yards per reception.
When Rob Gronkowski retired this offseason, the Patriots lost the greatest tight end to ever play the game. New England landed Austin Sefarian-Jenkins in free agency, but the Super Bowl champs could use even more depth at the position. Maxx Williams would provide that much-needed depth at a team-friendly price.
Kelvin Benjamin, Wide Receiver
Kevin Benjamin’s career has been in a downward spiral ever since his outstanding rookie season where Benjamin surpassed 1,000 yards receiving as Cam Newton’s favorite target. After missing the entire 2015 season due to an ACL tear, Benjamin never seemed to recover to the promising wideout his rookie season teased.
Benjamin has struggled with his weight and conditioning due to a lethargic attitude and poor offseason training. This led to a decrease in speed and lack of separation. Carolina shipped him to Buffalo where he did next to nothing. In 16 games with the Bills, Benjamin caught 39 balls for 571 yards and two touchdowns. The Bills had to swallow their pride and release the struggling wideout last December. Two days later, the Kansas City Chiefs signed Benjamin. He was never a factor for the Chiefs and only had two receptions in three games.
Kelvin Benjamin would be the toughest reclamation project Bill Belichick has ever attempted to restore to glory. If Benjamin can recommit himself to training and losing weight, he could return to the lengthy big-bodied target that used to tower over defenders. He is still 6-foot-5 and has the potential to replace Gronk as the tall sure-handed target in the end zone.
There are a lot of ifs and negatives surrounding Benjamin, but he is only 28 years old. There is still time for him to turn his career around and New England is the best place for the troubled wideout to get back on track.