Trey Flowers is set to hit the free agent market this offseason after finishing his rookie deal off with his second championship in three years. Flowers anchored the defense that held the Rams to just 260 total yards and only three points. Los Angeles was the highest scoring team in the NFC going into the Super Bowl and Flowers and company shut them down.
Flowers is without a doubt going to be one of the most sought after defensive free agents this offseason due to his youth and experience. He is only going to be 26-years old next season and just played in his third consecutive Super Bowl. Flowers has had the opportunity with the Patriots to play in high-pressure, winner-take-all situations and his play has been nothing but clutch.
In the Super Bowl win versus Atlanta, Flowers had a crucial fourth-quarter sack on Matt Ryan that knocked the Falcons out of field goal range. He effectively stymied Atlanta’s hopes of ending the Patriots’ comeback attempt and put the ball back into the hands of Tom Brady. In this years’ championship run, he racked up two sacks, six tackles, and six quarterback hits. In nine playoff games, Flowers has racked up 22 quarterback hits to go along with five-and-a-half sacks. Early in his young career, he has proven that he steps up when it matters most.
Trey Flowers ends his rookie contract with the best performance of his young career. He had a team-leading seven-and-a-half sacks on the year, which was also his career high. He also set career highs in tackles-for-loss (nine) and forced fumbles (three). He was arguably the most important player on the Patriots’ defense and he did it all at a discount. The final year of his rookie contract only paid him $1.9 million dollars, which is insane for how important he is to the chemistry of this team.
Bill Belichick changes his gameplan depending on what team he is facing from week to week, but one thing that never changes is his emphasis on stopping the run game. Belichick covets players that excel in stopping the ball on the ground. Trey Flowers was graded out at an 88.5 in run defense by Pro Football Focus, which was the third-highest among edge defenders in 2018. His overall grade by PFF was also tied for the third-highest edge defender at 90.4 and helped New England to the second-highest team defense grade of 90.2.
The Patriots will have to pony up a lot of dough to keep Trey Flowers from playing for another team. Spotrac projects Flowers to earn a contract around $15.3 million on an AAV basis. That projects to be a contract worth $77 million over a five-year period. This would be comparable to the contract that Olivier Vernon received in 2016 that was worth a total of $85 million over five seasons.
New England is projected to have just under $20 million in cap space for 2019, which limits what they can do with Trey Flowers’ contract. The franchise tag would end up costing the Patriots more than $17 million and basically wipes out all of their payroll.
They are better off trying to negotiate a deal with Flowers before other teams can sink their teeth into him. The Patriots might be able to snag him at a bit of a discount since Flowers’ sack totals are inferior compared to other high profile pass rushers set to hit the market.
What could be worrisome for New England is the high probability that the top end defensive linemen up for free agency are likely to be retained by their respective teams. Dallas is likely to extend Demarcus Lawrence and Houston will either franchise tag Jadeveon Clowney or sign him to an extension. Frank Clark’s 11-sack performance this season will most likely see him retained in Seattle as well.
If New England elects to pass on the franchise tag for Flowers, he would be the top edge defender to enter free agency making it even more difficult for the Patriots to contend in the bidding wars. Bill Belichick has a history of not wanting to pay pass rushers, choosing to find a cheaper option. Rather than pay Richard Seymour or Chandler Jones, the Patriots opted to deal them away.
The Patriots don’t have the option to receive compensation for Flowers in a trade, and letting him just leave via free agency makes zero sense.
New England needs to find a way to resign Trey Flowers by any means necessary.