Free Agency Primer: Who the Patriots Could, Should and Would Try to Sign

The New England Patriots and the other 31 teams are getting ready for the 2016 NFL season. New England will be looking for additions to the team that finished 12-4 and lost in the AFC Championship game to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos.  The Patriots have needs and without a first round draft pick the team could look at free agency as a way to supplement the roster, or land the key piece that will vault them back to holding the Lombardi trophy.

The Patriots do not tend to spend big in the free agent market. That being said, the last two times they have lost to a Peyton Manning-quarterbacked team in the AFC Championship they have responded with bringing in talent.  In the 2007 offseason, the Patriots brought in Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Adalius Thomas, and Donte Stallworth.  In 2014, the Pats signed Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, and Brandon LaFell, as well as re-signing Julian Edelman. The following season they made it to the Super Bowl.

Here is a look position by position on who the Patriots could, should and would sign.

Quarterback.

The Patriots seem to be safe here with Tom Brady still playing well and Jimmy Garoppolo backing him up.  The Patriots could, should and would sign a camp body to help the team. Names to keep an eye on is the return of Matt Flynn or Ryan Lindley.  The Pats could also bring in TJ Yates from Houston who has some familiarity with the Patriots system coming from Bill O’Brien’s offense.

Running back.

Who the Patriots should Sign.

Matt Forte.

In a perfect world, Matt Forte is the perfect running back for the New England Patriots. He can run the ball, catch the ball and score. He has even said he would take less money to win a ring.  The problem is that less money from $9.2 million could still be in the four to five million dollar range, and the Patriots will not spend that kind of cash.  The Patriots like to use the big back, receiving back model, Forte could be both and not make the offense as predictable.  The only downfall I see in Forte is the fact he has a lot of wear on his tires.  If the Patriots were to sign him, he would be the same type of acquisition as Corey Dillon was in 2004, a running back with just enough tread left on the tires to push the team over the top for a year or two.

Who the Patriots could sign.

Bilal Powell.

The Jets have three running backs that are hitting free agency, Powell, Chris Ivory and Stevan Ridley and there is close to no way that they will keep all three.  While Ivory would fit the Pats power back need he may have priced himself out of the market this year with his first career 1,000-yard season. Ridley was good in New England, but with the Patriots not showing some faith in signing him to a one-year prove it deal coming off of his ACL injury, it is unlikely he would resign with the team that drafted him. Enter Powell who has never been an every down back. He has shown quickness in the past and an ability in both the running and receiving game. He also has had success against the Patriots.  In six career games, he has 41 carries for 178 yards and two scores. He also has caught 12 balls for 98 yards. Signing Powell would also weaken the Jets. Powell may also be looking for big money as this will be his best shot to cash in.

Who the Patriots would sign.

Benny Cunningham.

Cunningham may not be a big-time name as he has played for the Rams.  Cunningham is a restricted free agent which means that if he is tendered a contract by a team the Rams would have seven days  to match the contract. Since Cunningham was undrafted the Rams would have to tender him at the highest level to receive draft compensation. With the Rams deep at running back, that probably wouldn’t happen and the Pats could always just trade for him like they did with Wes Welker in 2007.  Cunningham has kick return ability too which could add to the Patriots appeal. A young running back with not much wear and tear on the body could be just what the doctor ordered for a Patriots team needing help with running the ball.

Wide Receiver.

Who the Patriots should sign.

Alshon Jeffery.

The Patriots are in the market for an outside the numbers type of receiver. Brandon LaFell was that guy in 2014 but fell on hard times last year, being demoted to fourth on the depth chart by season’s end. Jeffery, at 6’4″ and 230 lbs, would be the ultimate wideout should the player be able to learn the Patriots offense. With such a talent comes a heavy price tag and Jeffery is in line for that. Expect him to sign a big Dez Bryant type of deal or be franchised. This is a player the Patriots should sign but never will. The Bears who have close to $60 million in cap space will likely do anything to bring him back.

Who the Patriots could sign.

Rueben Randle.

Randle is big at 6’4″ and could be the outside the numbers guy the Patriots are looking for. He has had two back to back good seasons for the Giants. Randle will be 25 when the season begins and like so many other wide receivers would need to learn the Patriots playbook before he could become a solid player in New England. He fits the measurables and played well for Eli Manning.  Randle finally used his size in the red zone last season catching eight touchdowns.  He could be a big luxury with Rob Gronkowski in the red area. However, like the Bears, the Giants have tons of cap space.

Who the Patriots would sign.

Mohamed Sanu.

Sanu played at Rutgers should be all you need to know.  The thing is there is so much more to like about Sanu. First off is his size 6’2″ 215 lbs, which is about the same size as LaFell. He shouldn’t cost as much as some of the other receivers on the open market as he has never quite put it together.  Sanu could really develop in New England as he would be surrounded by former college teammates and in a good environment. Sanu hits the open market after a down year in Cincinnati. Expect the Patriots to at least kick the tires on this player as he could be a value pick.

Tight End.

Who the Patriots should sign.

Ladarius Green.

The Scott Chandler signing did not work last year, so why not try again with Ladarius Green. Green could be a marvelous compliment to Rob Gronkowski. Money, however, does not grow on trees and this would just make Patriots nation too happy. The Patriots, however, have a need at the second tight end position as Chandler should be cut.  At 6’6″ and 237 lbs, Green would be the move tight end in the Patriots offense.

Who the Patriots could sign.

Dwayne Allen.

Allen had 45 reception his rookie year but hasn’t come close since. Allen can catch, but is a better blocker. In New England, he would be an upgrade over Chandler and while big catch numbers wouldn’t be expected they would be a welcomed addition. He would provide a solid blocking tight end in running situations out of the Ace set.  He could want a big pay day but tight ends who are not huge receiving threats do not usually get the big money.

Who the Patriots would sign.

Ben Watson.

Sure he is 35 years old, but that didn’t stop Watson from putting up career highs in catches and yards last year in New Orleans. The Pats drafted Watson to pair with Dan Graham to be the Gronk/Hernandez combination. While that never materialized it could in what would likely be his final year in the NFL. At 35, he wouldn’t require a long-term deal or huge dollars. He knows the offense and could be an asset in the passing game.

Offensive line.

Who the Patriots should sign.

Cordy Glenn.

The Patriots line was much maligned after the season and rightly so. With the return of Dante Scarnecchia as the offensive line coach, that should change. Still the Patriots most glaring need could be a starting caliber tackle. Sebastian Vollmer is not getting any younger. Nate Solder is coming off of injury.  The Patriots should sign Cordy Glenn and move him into a starters spot along the line.   He is becoming a good pass blocker and can run block well. He will not come cheap but good players never do.

Who the Patriots could sign.

Mitchell Schwartz.

The forgotten man in Cleveland.  He has had a solid start to his career and has not missed a snap in since entering the NFL. Micheal Lombardi knows him from his Browns days and he could easily slide in as a starter at tackle should something happen to Vollmer or Solder. In fact, the Pats could elect to sign him and move on from Vollmer.  He is a solid tackle who is best suited on the right side.

Who the Patriots would sign.

Joe Barksdale.

Barksdale is the low-risk high reward signing we usually see the Patriots go after.  He played on a one-year deal in San Diego last season and could do the same this year. He has been a solid but unspectacular player in his career.  The Patriots may just bypass an outside signing and bring back LaAdrian Waddle who they picked up off of injured waivers from the lions.

Defensive Line.

Who the Patriots should sign.

Akiem Hicks.

The Patriots should stay in-house and resign Akiem Hicks. A few weeks after he was traded for Hicks really started to come on.  At the end of the season, he was as good a defensive tackle as the Patriots had. Resigning him makes the most sense.

Who the Patriots could sign.

Terrance Knighton.

Many thought he would be a good fit last year after Vince Wilfork departed and he is back on the market this year. He had a poor showing his first season in Washington and that could be scheme related.  Knighton is still only 30 and could provide some insurance if the Patriots have injuries on the interior line.

Who the Patriots would sign.

Brandon Mebane.

It is always about value with the Patriots. Mebane’s cap hit in 2014 was over five million and he won’t get that in free agency. Mebane is 31 and his best days are behind him. However in the right situation, he could be the perfect rotation player. Mebane could also be a great mentor to youngsters Malcom Brown and Dominique Easley.

Linebacker.

Who the Patriots should sign.

Danny Trevathan.

With the Jerod Mayo retirement, the Patriots are in need of another linebacker. We saw first hand what a top flight front seven could do in the playoffs.  Bringing in Trevathan and pairing him with Jamie Collins and Donta Hightower could make for rocket scientist Matt Patricia drawing up some unique schemes. The signing would also weaken the Broncos. His market value could be in the six to eight million dollars per season range, and with Hightower and Collins up after this season, this is a pipe dream.

Who the Patriots could Sign.

Demario Davis.

This is another signing that would be very hard to expect considering the Patriots need to resign their own. However, Davis can be a tackling machine.  He would be a great fit as an interior linebacker who would be a big step up from Jonathan Freeny. With Freeny signing a two-year extension during the season, it sure looks like the Patriots believe in him.

Who the Patriots would sign.

Courtney Upshaw.

Upshaw has been a bit of a disappointment in the NFL. Another low-risk high reward signing. Teaming him up with former college teammate Hightower could truly help him. Upshaw has the talent and a change of scenery could be what the doctor ordered. Perhaps the Patriots could sign him to a two-year pact that would allow him to regain some market value going into another free agency year, and protecting themselves from losing Hightower or Collins.

Secondary.

Who the Patriots should sign.

Trumaine Johnson.

The Pats do not need any more safeties on their roster so we will look just at the corner position. Johnson had a breakthrough season with seven interceptions.  The Patriots played Russian roulette with only Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan being reliable corners all season in 2015. While Bulter could be in line for a big payday next offseason, why not take a chance on another young player. Johnson put it all together last year and could start opposite Butler while Ryan moved to the slot. Having Johnson could also allow the Patriots to move Bulter to whichever receiver is deemed to be the most explosive on the opponents side of the ball.

Who the Patriots could sign.

Sean Smith.

Smith is a big corner with skill. At 28, he is in the prime of his career and could truly help the continued development of the Patriots young corners. Smith isn’t a true number one cornerback but he can be in a pinch. Signing Smith settles any anxiety the Patriots could have that either Butler or Ryan do not continue their upward trend.

Who the Patriots would sign.

Jeremy Lane.

Lane is not an outside corner but is very good in the slot.  The Patriots could bring in this player and stick him in the middle of the field. The issue with Lane is he gets hurt.  If he could stay healthy he could be a solid slot man for the Patriots.

 

Give a listen to Inside the Hoodie, as Bobby Krivitsky and myself talk Patriots offseason, Dante Scarnecchia returning and Jerod Mayo retiring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Free Agency Primer: Who the Patriots Could, Should and Would Try to Sign

  1. Pingback: New England Patriots Links 2/19/16 – Improving the Backfield: Should Patriots Draft or Sign? – The Scoopp

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