The Patriots have started to make their mark on the free agency period. Their only free agent signing currently is re-signing Burkhead, but the team also swung a trade with Cleveland to land Jason McCourty. In addition the team has scheduled visits for Adrian Clayborn, Jeremy Hill, and Eric Ebron. In the case of Clayborn and Hill, the Patriots are the only team to have reportedly scheduled visits, while Ebron will be visiting the Panthers and Colts first. It’s possible we see news on all three players start to heat up on Day 3.
I don’t think the Patriots are looking at just those three players, but here are more possible free agent targets for the Patriots. I’ll start with two possible free agents from other teams then four free agents from the Patriots that could contribute in 2018.
S Kenny Vaccaro: The former Saints top pick in 2013, Vaccaro brings an element of versatility. His skill set is very similar to Patrick Chung as a guy who can play in the box, cover in the slot, and go against TEs and RBs. The Patriots have seen Vaccaro through numerous joint practices with the Saints, so they have a pretty solid idea about what he brings to the team. Vaccaro would likely be the team’s 4th safety and contribute on special teams although the Patriots employ 4 safety packages in 2018, before taking over Chung’s role when the latter’s contract expires after the season.
LB Preston Brown: Brown has already expressed interest to joining the Patriots before and he fits the Patriots scheme fairly well. Brown is excellent in the run game and solid enough in coverage to be a 3 down linebacker in the middle although the Patriots currently figure to employ Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy as their top 2 linebackers. I’m not too bullish on NE going out and signing Brown though if the Patriots have plans for Van Noy to play a significant role.
LB Marquis Flowers: Flowers came to the Patriots in September and flashed at times as a member of the defense. A valuable asset in the kicking game, Flowers is the ideal 3rd linebacker who can use his speed in coverage and rush the passer. I think a 1-year, prove it deal will help Flowers establish a big market next offseason to cash in.
OT La’Adrian Waddle: The Patriots currently have a hole at the tackle position. Waddle has the most experience of the two Patriot tackles still currently unsigned. Waddle filled in for Marcus Cannon at RT after the latter’s season-ending ankle injury and held his own there before going down late in the season. I figure that a left tackle option isn’t available in free agency or trade, so New England is going to have to get creative with their OL combination with Cannon moving to LT and Waddle starting at RT.
OT Cameron Fleming: Same story with Waddle, with Fleming finishing the year as the Patriots starting right tackle. Fleming is a terrific run blocker at the first level, but at times his lack of athleticism gets exposed in pass pro. In the last two years he’s been an admirable fill-in with the team possibly needing him to fill in longer than 4-5 games depending on free agency and how quickly they can groom up their next tackle. I think the Patriots could make a run at re-signing at least one, if not both of Waddle and Fleming on a short-term deal and working on grooming Garcia, Croston, or a drafted player this season.
CB Johnson Bademosi: Picking up Bademosi would almost be more CB depth and ST purposes. Ideally we don’t see Bademosi play meaningful snaps at CB, but as a 5th/6th option you can do worse. He was a factor in the kicking game for the Patriots where his 4.3 speed was an asset covering kicks. Belichick loves his Special Teams players and I would not be surprised if Bademosi returns for about a million.