As the dust has now settled a week after the NFL draft, not much activity has come out of Foxboro. By now, the Patriots usually have over ten new undrafted free agents entering minicamp. But this time, only one has been signed. At the moment, the Patriots hold a little bit over $15 million in cap space.

With an estimated ~$3 million needed to sign the rookies, it’s safe to say there will still be a lot of money to go around. From being one of the most depleted rosters in the league, the Patriots now have some serious depth and competition.

There is enough ammo for trades, cuts, and position battles. Perhaps we will see a second wave of veteran cuts once camp starts. With a multitude of outcomes looming, who may be saying hello and goodbye to Foxboro?

Free Agents Still Available

Running Back

  • Duke Johnson
  • Todd Gurley
  • Le’Veon Bell
  • Ito Smith
  • Rex Burkhead
The Patriots are pretty filled out at the position as of right now, but running back depth is always needed. Keeping James White aboard has been essential to this group, but he is the only natural pass catching back. Perhaps the team is waiting to hear on Rex Burkhead’s recovery. If New England wanted to kick the tires on two versatile running backs once considered the best in the NFL, Bell and Gurley would be at the top of that list.
Defensive Tackle
  • Geno Atkins
  • Kawann Short
  • Jurrell Casey
  • Sheldon Richardson
  • Corey Peters

While New England has invested heavily in the front-seven this offseason, there are strong veteran options still on the table. Getting names like Geno Atkins, Kawann Short, or Jurrell Casey could provide a strong veteran presence for young players like Devon Godchaux and Rookie Christian Barmore.

Kicker
  • Chase McLaughlin
  • Zane Gonzalez

Two young kickers under 27 who have had starting experience in the NFL. The Patriots do not have many options in that category when it comes to kickers. McLaughlin has already been bounced around the league, but was effective as a starter. Converting all of his extra points, 50 yard field goals, and field goals inside 40 yards. Gonzalez has been a solid two year starter for the Arizona Cardinals, making 47 of 57 field goals and only missing two extra points.

Potential Contract Extensions

Notable Contracts expiring in 2022:

CB Stephon Gilmore

CB J.C. Jackson

S Devin McCourty

S Adrian Phillips

LB Dont’a Hightower

LB Ja’Whaun Bentley

RB Sony Michel

RB James White

T Trent Brown

WR Jakobi Meyers

WR Gunner Olszewski

The Patriots have some serious starters entering the last year of their contract. The secondary in particular as two starter corners and safeties top that list. While there is still time for trades, it’s in New England’s best interest to extend Gilmore and Jackson. Extending Gilmore would give New England more cap space.

It’s hard to believe that the return for Gilmore would be worth losing a #1 Corner for potentially the next 3 years. We should use Richard Sherman and the Seahawks as an example. What if Stephon Gilmore can play elite football for three more years? New England should pay for that. Extending Jackson would make sense as well for he is a great #2 and future of a ballhawking secondary.

Extending veteran starters such as Devin McCourty and Dont’a Hightower would give the Patriots additional cap space. It’s hard to see players like Sony Michel and Ja’Whaun Bentley anywhere near the front when it comes to an extension.

Adrian Phillips and Trent Brown’s contract situation will depend a lot on their 2021 performance. However, not enough people are talking about Jakobi Meyers. He has stepped up as the teams #1 option for the past year and a half for this troubled offense. Meyers should thrive on this revamped passing attack, serving as a 3rd or 4th option. He shouldn’t cost too much and is well worth the system fit for years to come.

Trade/Cap Casualties Options

WR Jamison Crowder

Crowder will be at the top of this list and should be for the New England Patriots. The Jets just selected slot receiver Elijah Moore to fill up a now crowded receiver room. The Jets could free up $10 million in cap space in parting with Crowder.

Crowder would instantly become the teams #1 receiver and excel from the slot. Crowder was one of the best slot receivers after the catch in 2020, something New England can use. At 27 years old Crowder has recorded at least 79 targets in five of his six seasons. His 699 yards and 6 TDs in 12 games for the Jets in 2020 would have made for 932 yards and 8 TDs in a full season.

WR Sterling Shepard

Shepard is now another odd man out in New York after the draft. The Giants have already signed pass catchers Kenny Golladay, John Ross, and Kyle Rudolph.

Additionally, drafting Kadarius Toney in the first round. The Giants also have young, promising pass catchers in Evan Engram and Darius Slayton. Shepard is another target machine under the age of 30, never posting a season with under 80 targets. While he has never seen an 1,000 yard season, Shepard would thrive with his reliability in New England.

 

Many more names should expectedly pry open for the Patriots in the coming months. It will be fascinating how New England will look to improve an already revitalized roster.

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