The first wave of free agency is over and it saw the New England Patriots lose four of their core contributors, all while the team appeared to be rather inactive. This perceived inactivity will likely end soon, though, as the Patriots will try to acquire some of the lesser-profile free agents still available at a more reasonable price than the ones often signed shortly after the opening of the market.
The following six players, for example, are still available – and could all help the Patriots this season:
CB E.J. Gaines
While Gaines was inconsistent early on in his career (when he was still with the Rams), he had a breakout season in 2017 with the Buffalo Bills. As the starting boundary cornerback opposite Tre'Davious White, the now-26-year old allowed only a 75.2 passer ratings on throws in his direction and was equally impressive in limiting yards after catch. And even though his best season came in a zone-based defense, Gaines would be an intriguing addition to the Patriots' top cornerback group of Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe.
LB Preston Brown
Another free agent formerly of the Bills, Preston Brown already voiced his belief that he could help the Patriots defense – and he is probably not wrong. The 6’1, 250 lbs defender is a proven playmaker that averaged 126 combined tackles through his first four seasons in the NFL; one that brings plenty of experience and production to the table as a run stopper, pass rusher and in coverage. Furthermore, he has not missed a single game since the Bills drafted him out of Louisville back in 2014. As such, he would add dependability to a linebacker group that was hit hard by injury in 2017.
DE Junior Galette
Coming off two consecutive 10+ sack seasons with the Saints, Galette had a bit of a down year in 2017 with the Washington Redskins – at least statistically. The soon-to-be 30-year old still offered valuable depth and pass rushing ability to the team's edge rotation and finished the year with 37 quarterback pressures, a number that would have ranked second behind only Trey Flowers on the Patriots last year.
SS Kenny Vaccaro
The Patriots already employ one of the NFL's better strong safeties in Patrick Chung, but Vaccaro would still be a nice addition to the team's secondary and special teams units. While the 27-year old has been inconsistent against the pass throughout his career, he still brings physicality and strong run defense to the table – and could still help when it comes to defending running backs and tight ends in the intermediate areas of the field.
DE Alex Okafor
After four up-and-down seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, Okafor had a very good 2017 campaign for the New Orleans Saints. The 6'5, 265 edge defender registered 4.5 sacks through the first 10 weeks of the season but saw it come to an abrupt end due to a torn Achilles tendon. When healthy, though, the 27-year old has the tools to be a strong playmaker both against the running and the passing game.
SS Tyrann Mathieu
Mathieu would be a great addition to the Patriots’ defense. While the team is deep at the safety position with Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon and the above-mentioned Chung, it needs to upgrade its pass defense in the underneath zones – an area in which the 25-year old does his best work. Adding him would help mitigate the Patriots’ need for additional linebacker help versus the pass and would give the secondary more versatility and depth against opposing tight ends and running backs. But of course, money will likely be the deciding factor when it comes to adding the former Arizona Cardinal.
As the list above shows, there is still plenty of talent to be had on the free agency market. The Patriots will soon start to add pieces to its roster – pieces that come at a lower price at those players that have already been signed elsewhere but could be just as effective when put into the right spot.