The Patriots roster options expand again this week as the second wave of NFL free agency opens up on Wednesday. The compensatory pick deadline closes on Tuesday, meaning that any signings made by NFL teams from here on out will not affect compensatory picks in next year's draft.
24/7 Sports had a great breakdown of how this works: "Starting when the new league year opened in March...until this week's Tuesday deadline, every unrestricted free agent has some effect on the compensatory draft formula. Compensatory picks are awarded to teams based on the value of the unrestricted free agents they lose. The bigger the contract that free agent signs, they higher the pick that can be awarded. A team must lose more players than they sign to be awarded any picks and then the contract math decides how big of a pick they earn."
If the Patriots had signed another player last week, it would have had an effect on the compensatory draft picks that the team will receive next year (they are currently projected to receive two third round picks and a sixth-round pick). Now that the deadline has passed, none of their new signings going forward will have any effect on their picks next season.
Because of that, a new wave of free agency has opened up. The Patriots already kicked that off with their reported signing of veteran tackle Jared Veldheer. The former Broncos provides more depth at a very young position for New England. The Patriots have some other options that they can explore to continue to add depth and talent to their roster:
- Ezekiel Ansah, DE
The former Detroit Lion is still relatively in the prime of his career at age 30. Unfortunately, he is coming off an injury-plagued season that saw him play just seven total games. Ansah has been one of the premier players at his position throughout his career, with two seasons of 12+ sacks. He would provide a much-needed pass rush boost to New England's defense. However, he may still be out of the Patriots price range. Even at age 30, Spotrac projects his market value to be at roughly $13.6 million.
- Ndamukong Suh, DT
Suh is an interesting free agency target because his market is a bit of an unknown. Spotrac has him projected at $15.4 million a year, but that may be a high price tag for a team to commit to longterm. The Rams signed him to a one-year, $14 million deal last offseason, and while he played well, teams may not be jumping up and down to throw that kind of money at a 32-year old. New England could potentially sign him with a lower annual salary that has higher guarantees. This would provide them with a pass-rushing interior defensive linemen that they have been lacking.
- Jamie Collins, LB
It seemed odd that the Patriots did almost nothing to address the linebacker position in free agency or the draft. It could be that they were waiting for this moment to sign Collins. The former Patriot and Brown is coming off of a productive season, finishing with four sacks and 104 tackles. He knows the Patriots system well and would be a welcome return to New England's locker room. He would also come at a relatively cheap price compared to some of the other notable free agents.
- Jermaine Gresham, TE
The tight end position is arguably the team's weakest position group at the moment. They have next to no serious receiving talent, and their "blocking" tight ends lack experience. Gresham would not solve all of those problems. However, he would provide a reliable, veteran presence who has had a solid career. With few options still available, it might not hurt to take a flier on Gresham.
- Michael Crabtree, WR
New England already added one talented veteran this offseason with Demaryius Thomas. They could add another in Crabtree. The outgoing wideout has had a productive career despite spotty quarterback play, with two seasons with 1000+ yards and four seasons with at least eight touchdowns. The receiver position is not as high on the list of needs after the drafting of N'Keal Harry. But Crabtree would likely be a much better option than someone like Bruce Ellington who they currently have on their roster.