The New England Patriots’ 13 unrestricted free agents receive most of the attention as we are slowly but steadily heading towards the start of the new league year. However, the team also has six more players about to hit free agency: Three of those six are restricted, three are exclusive rights free agents.
The three men following under the first category are as follows:
CB Malcolm Butler
OT Cameron Fleming
TE Michael Williams
Each one of those three players will see their respective contracts end later this week, which makes them restricted free agents. This means that the Patriots have an advantage over other teams when it comes to retaining them. After all, the team simply has to place one of the three tender levels on them to secure the right of first refusal of an incoming offer sheet.
If the team does not match the offer and sees the player leave, it will get compensation in the form of a draft pick depending on the tender sheet: Either a first, second or original round selection. If the lowest tender is placed on an undrafted player, the team will not receive any compensation.
According to ESPN’s Field Yates, this year’s values of each of the three tender levels are as follows:
Official restricted free agent tender values for 2017:
1st round: $3.91M
2nd round: $2.746M
Low/original round: $1.797M
New England is expected to tender at least two of its restricted free agents. Pro Bowl cornerback Malcolm Butler is expected to receive the first round tender in case the team does not sign him to a contract extension first. The price tag of $3.91 million would be more than what Butler has made so far in his career while simultaneously allowing the Patriots to keep their top cornerback for another year at a modest price tag.
Offensive tackle Cameron Fleming, who served as the team’s top backup at the position in 2016, also seems like a candidate to be tagged – especially now that the team has released veteran Sebastian Vollmer. Miguel Benzan of patscap.com expects Fleming to be tendered at the original round level; in Fleming’s case it would thus take a non-matched offer sheet and a fourth round selection to get him off the Patriots.
The third unrestricted free agent is more of a question mark. Backup tight end Michael Williams, who has spent the entire 2016 season on injured reserve, has not been listed on the team’s roster lately, which might be a sign that the Patriots do not plan on bringing him back. If they do, then the original round tender is the most realistic scenario for the former seventh round draft pick.