Analysis

New England Patriots Free Agency Outlook

New England Patriots Free Agency Preview

After a 47-17 defeat in the Wild Card round at the hands of divisional rival the Buffalo Bills, the Patriots are at somewhat of a crossroads with a number of big players slated to potentially hit free agency. A year after its first losing season since 2000, the Patriots were able to rebound with a 10-7 record and were the top seed in the AFC for a few weeks. This roster certainly has tremendous players, but it could get better, particularly since some of the stalwarts on this team are getting older. The average age of the Patriots’ roster heading into this season, after an offseason which saw them spend over $100 million in free agency, was 26.45 years old—this was the 10th-oldest roster heading into the year. Moreover, the Patriots’ had the second-oldest defense in the league heading into the year with an average age of 26.94 years old. It is clear that the Patriots will need to keep getting younger and faster in order to keep up with the likes of the Buffalo Bills in the AFC East.

New England’s Impending Free Agents:

  • OL Trent Brown
  • LB Dont’a Hightower
  • RB Brandon Bolden
  • S Brandon King
  • LB Jamie Collins
  • LB Harvey Langi
  • LB Ja’Whaun Bentley
  • FB Jakob Johnson (RFA)
  • TE Troy Fumagalli (RFA)
  • WR Jakobi Meyers (RFA)
  • WR Gunner Olszewski (RFA)
  • LB Kyle Van Noy (Waived)

It is no surprise that All-Pro cornerback J.C. Jackson is at the top of the list for the Patriots to re-sign this offseason. After Jackson, the Patriots’ cornerback depth is less than stellar. Moreover, New England a big decision to make regarding two key players on the defensive side of the ball, outside of Jackson: safety Devin McCourty and linebacker Dont’a Hightower. Both players have impacted this team for the better, but one has to wonder if they will either consider retirement or try to sign a short-term deal with a team that is more of an obvious Super Bowl contender. Per Over The Cap, the Patriots are only projected to have around $8.2 million in cap space this offseason before restructuring deals. 

Update: The Patriots now have $13,423,971 available in cap space.

Franchise Tag:

Update: The Patriots elected to not use their franchise tag this offseason.

Top Team Needs:

  1. Linebacker
  2. Cornerback 
  3. Interior Offensive Line
  4. Wide Receiver
  5. EDGE opposite of Matthew Judon
  6. Offensive Tackle depth

Even though the Patriots spent more than any other team in the league last offseason, there are still a multitude of holes that they will need to fix based on how the season ended. With Ja’Whaun Bentley and Dont’a Hightower both heading towards free agency, this becomes the number one need for the team. The linebacker group struggled against some of the more bruising and shifty backs the past two seasons. Meanwhile, the search for a number-one receiving option continues, and the Patriots could certainly address that in the draft with a deep receiving group. Cornerback would be a bigger need, but that depends on what happens with J.C. Jackson. Lastly, the Patriots could really use a spark off the edge opposite of star OLB Matthew Judon as his production dipped down the stretch of last season as more teams prioritized stopping him compared to the rest of the players on the defensive line. With the potential loss of Karras and Brown, the offensive line will be a factor to address especially in terms of depth. They have experienced injuries across the OL consistently and depth has been a major factor. With their “run-heavy” game plan, the OL becomes even more of a factor.