For many fans around the league, the tampering period and Day 1 of free agency have been a whirlwind of excitement. We have seen a ridiculous number of star players being traded to different markets. Free agents have been jumping ship in record numbers. The power dynamic in the league is shifting quickly, with teams making significant leaps.
The Patriots, on the other hand, have stayed relatively quiet so far. They’ve let two of their biggest free agents walk (Trey Flowers, Trent Brown), and have only been tied to one semi-important name in free agency so far (Adam Humphries). The only moves that the team has made have been the trade for Michael Bennett, the signing of Brandon Bolden, and the resigning of John Simon and Jason McCourty.
This type of activity is not uncommon for New England. Most years they are quiet on the first day of the new league year. They wait till the first wave of free agent signings finishes before picking from the second tier and turning those players into Super Bowl champions. The Patriots have the opportunity to do the same this year. Despite the rapid flurry of signings, there are still a number of great free agent options out there that the Patriots could explore to make a run at another title:
– Justin Houston: At 30 years old, Houston wouldn’t be bringing youth or a longterm solution to the Patriots. However, he is the type of player who could be the difference maker in the last few years of the Brady-Belichick era. Houston had 18.5 sacks over the previous two seasons, as well as five forced fumbles in 2018. He is still a disruptive force that the Patriots may be able to get for the right price while they search for younger alternatives.
– Ezekial Ansah: The former Detroit Lion is hitting free agency at a bad time. He had a down 2018 season that was marred with injuries. However, when healthy, Ansah has the size and skill to transform a defense with his pass rush ability. If he has the ability to play a more versatile role, he could be a relatively cheaper option for New England over the next few seasons.
– Clay Matthews: The Patriots love bringing in veterans who are in the downturn of their career, yet still have some fight left in them. Matthews fits that role perfectly. He would help provide more experience and depth to a Patriots linebacking corps that struggled at times in 2018. Matthews would also help the development of New England’s young linebackers like Elandon Roberts and Ja’Whaun Bentley.
– Jamie Collins: The Patriots have reportedly been interested in bringing back their former second-round pick. Collins did not leave New England on a bad note. The team knew he wanted to get paid. They decided to get as much value for him as they could before he hit free agency. Bringing in Collins would add more linebacker depth for the Patriots. It would also help by bringing in a player familiar with the Patriots system.
– Randall Cobb: It’s no surprise that the Patriots need receiver help. They only have one receiver currently on the roster who has an NFL catch. The 28-year-old Cobb doesn’t give the Patriots their receiver of the future. However, it adds a tough, hard-working player to the team. Combining him with Julian Edelman could create nightmares for opposing linebackers and slot corners. He may also come at a cheap price, which would make him more attractive to New England.
– Golden Tate: Speaking of slot receivers, Golden Tate is still on the market. The 31-year-old has watched a number of other pass catchers receive high paydays so far this season. However, so far Tate has appeared to generate little buzz, which could be because of his age. That is a mistake, as the former Seahawk and Lion is one of the toughest and most elusive receivers in the NFL. The issue for the Patriots right now is that his asking price may be a little too high. They would only take him at a deal much lower than the $10-12 million he is looking for. It may not be a likely pairing, but it certainly isn’t out of the question.
– Brandon Marshall: Another linebacker/defensive end option for the Patriots is the former Bronco Brandon Marshall. When healthy, he is one of the more productive linebackers in the NFL. In the three seasons in which he played at least 13 games, he totaled over 100 tackles each year. After an injury-plagued 2018, Marshall is hitting free agency. He could provide New England with a good hybrid option who can play a traditional linebacker role, while also rushing the passer.
– Tyler Eifert: This is the second time I’ve discussed Eifert, so I won’t waste much time on the details. However, he is still available after the first wave of tight ends has been swooped up. New England could get him at a reasonable price on a prove it deal.
These are all viable options that the Patriots could explore over the next few days of free agency. Plus, this doesn’t even include their own free agents that they could strike deals with, such as Phillip Dorsett, Chris Hogan, or Stephen Gostkowski. This is the time when the Patriots usually strike gold. Let’s see if they can do it again.