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Checking in on Patriots’ restricted, exclusive-rights free agents

The New England Patriots entered Thursday with three restricted and four exclusive-rights free agents.

The dust of the 2017 league year has yet to settle. The unrestricted arrivals and departures are ongoing. Trades – and hacked Instagram posts – are as well.

But the New England Patriots also entered Thursday’s 4 p.m. ET window with three restricted and four exclusive-rights free agents to account for. And as it stands, all seven find themselves still in the fold.

At least for the time being.

Here’s a rundown of New England’s restricted and exclusive-rights classes now that the first day of unrestricted free agency is in the rearview mirror.


TE Michael Williams – Not tendered; re-signed

Williams was not tendered a contract offer before the 4 o’clock hour Thursday, but according to the Boston Globe’s Ben Volin, the 26-year-old will be back with the Patriots on a one-year deal. Originally acquired from the Detroit Lions in August of 2015 in exchange for a future seventh-round draft pick, Williams moved from offensive tackle back to the position he played at Alabama during his first practice with the team. The 6-foot-6, 300-pound blocking specialist went on to start nine of his 15 appearances during the 2015 regular season, catching three passes for 26 yards. He spent all of 2016 on injured reserve due to a torn ACL.

OT Cameron Fleming – Original-round tender

Per NFL release, the Patriots applied the original-round tender of $1.797 million on Fleming, who first entered the fold as a fourth-round pick back in 2014. In turn, that means any team to submit an offer sheet to the 24-year-old Stanford product would send a fourth-rounder to the Patriots as compensation. Fleming has played in 35 games and started 14 over the course of his three seasons in Foxborough, with a brief stint on the practice squad coming in between. He played in all 16 games in 2016, starting five, to log 284 snaps on offense and 81 on special teams.

CB Malcolm Butler – First-round tender

The Patriots officially placed the $3.91 million first-round tender on Butler, though it remains unclear whether the former undrafted tryout will play under it – he’s yet to sign it. Butler, who earned a base salary of $600,000 in 2016, can draw offer sheets from other teams up through April 21. The Patriots, meanwhile, would have the opportunity to match any prospective offer sheet, or decline and receive a first-round pick as compensation for the 2015 Pro Bowler. Adding another variable to the mix of a potential trade is the fact New England has signed former Buffalo Bills corner Stephon Gilmore to a five-year, $65 million deal that includes $40 million guaranteed, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter initially detailed Thursday afternoon. Then late Thursday night, it was learned that four-year Patriots veteran Logan Ryan had left for the Tennessee Titans on a reported three-year, $30 million pact.


TE Matt Lengel – Tendered

Entering the league as an undrafted free agent by way of Northeastern and Western Kentucky in 2015, Lengel spent his rookie season on the Cincinnati Bengals’ practice squad and was signed to the Patriots’ 53-man roster this November. Thenceforth, Lengel caught two passes for 22 yards and a touchdown over six games with the Patriots. Per’s Miguel Benzan, the 26-year-old is slated to earn $540,000 under the exclusive-rights tender as a player with one accrued NFL season. Lengel’s return was first reported by Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald on Tuesday. He is one of five tight ends under contract for next season, alongside Rob Gronkowski, reserve-futures addition Rob Housler, trade acquisition Dwayne Allen, as well as Williams.

DE Geneo Grissom – Tendered

Grissom’s name was not listed on the league’s free-agent release, which would appear to indicate that he has been tendered for 2017. A Patriots third-round pick out of Oklahoma in 2015, Grissom has since played in 25 games to collect 11 tackles and one sack. Serving primarily on special teams, the 24-year-old end-slash-linebacker was on the field for 250 snaps in the kicking game this past season after beginning it on the practice squad. There’s room off the edge of New England’s defense if Grissom can find it.

S Brandon King – Tendered

Also not listed among the league’s 517 players who became free agents Thursday was King. The 23-year-old has made his mark on New England’s special-teams units since signing on after two seasons at Auburn. King has tallied 29 regular-season games over his two years with the Patriots, registering 22 tackles and a forced fumble in the kicking game. After earning a base salary of $525,000 in 2016, King’s exclusive-rights number is $615,000 for 2017.

CB Justin Coleman – Tendered

Coleman’s tender was shared by the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe among others on Tuesday. The 23-year-old, who first latched on with New England as an undrafted rookie out of Tennessee in 2015, has played in 20 games with three starts during his tenure, accumulating 29 tackles and eight passes defended. Coleman played in 10 games this past season, but was inactive for seven games from Week 11 through Super Bowl LI.