The New England Patriots came up just short of their ultimate goal in 2017 as the team lost Super Bowl LII against the Philadelphia Eagles. In order to get back onto the top of the NFL mountain, the team – on and off the field personnel – will have to quickly turn the page to get into a position to field the best possible team in 2018; one that will be able to once again compete for the world championship.
A big part of creating such a team is mastering the upcoming free agency. And if judged by the list of free agents to be, New England's front office will be busy over the next few weeks. Also over the next few weeks, we will take a look at those free agents to find out who might or might not get re-signed; and who should be a part of the 2018 Patriots. Today, we'll continue the series with offensive tackle Cameron Fleming
#71 OT Cameron Fleming
2018 opening day age: 26
2017 playing time: 15 games (12 regular season + 3 playoffs); 39.9% offensive snaps, 15.0% special teams snaps
2017 statistics: 6 sacks, 1 hit, 6 pressures given up
2017 cap number: $1.797 million
Cameron Fleming entered the 2017 season as the Patriots' number four option at the tackle position behind Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon; he ended it by starting the Super Bowl at the right tackle spot. In between, the former fourth round draft pick saw a season-ending injury to Cannon as well as an injury to his replacement, fellow free agent LaAdrian Waddle. As a result, Fleming was elevated to a starting role in week 13 – and he never looked back.
Overall, the 25-year old appeared in 15 games for the Patriots this year and played roughly 40% of the team's offensive snaps (along with a healthy portion of special teams snaps as well). All in all, considering where he started the year on the depth chart, Fleming did a good job to fill in for Waddle and by extension Cannon. And despite giving up the second-most sacks on the team, this performance could make him an intriguing option in free agency.
Ultimately, though, it would not be a surprise to see the Patriots value Fleming higher than other teams and bring him back on a contract with a similar per-year-value as the restricted free agency tender sheet he signed in April 2017. This would ensure at least some level of security at the tackle position with Solder and Waddle both free agents as well and Antonio Garcia a question mark entering next season.
Projection: Fleming re-signs with the Patriots on a three-year contract worth around $6.0-$7.0 million.