Did you know that the NFL’s free agency doesn’t officially start until tomorrow? Based on the amount of moves being announced over the last few hours you wouldn’t know we are still in the so-called legal tampering period when teams can start negotiations with players but don’t actually sign them yet. But such is life in the NFL of 2019, which means that the market is already starting to dry up a bit one day before if actually opens.
The New England Patriots were already impacted by this: the club first lost starting left tackle Trent Brown to a record-breaking offer by the Oakland Raiders, before seeing standout defensive lineman Trey Flowers come to an agreement with the Detroit Lions. The reigning world champions, meanwhile, remained inactive and did not make their first moves until early Tuesday morning when two restricted free agents were tendered.
Ultimately, the Patriots will enter the action and when they do the following players could still be available as things stand right now. Let’s first start by looking at Pats Pulpit’s very own list, published before the start of the legal tampering period yesterday. As can be seen, nine of the eleven names listed are still unsigned at this point in time:
DT Henry Anderson: The 27-year-old led the New Yor Jets with 7.0 sacks in 2018 and was tied for 12th best at his position with a combined 48 quarterback pressures. Anderson would be a tremendous fit in a New England defensive tackle group that currently consists only of Lawrence Guy and Adam Butler. The former third-round draft pick would help the club’s interior rotation stay intact while also adding quality in the pass rushing department.
DT Allen Bailey: Playing 72.1% of the club’s defensive snaps, the veteran registered 6.0 sacks from the defensive tackle spot. Since New England’s interior line is facing plenty of turnover with both Malcom Brown and Danny Shelton about to hit free agency, Bailey might be an experienced and low-cost alternative.
DE Christian Covington: The former sixth-round draft pick had an unspectacular four-year stint with Bill O’Brien’s team and finished 2018 with 13 games played and 3.5 sacks, but could benefit from a change of scenery.
TE Darren Fells: While not a standout receiving tight end, the 32-year-old is one of the better blockers the position has to offer and still capable of hauling in passes every now and then: in 2018, the Cleveland Browns’ quarterbacks targeted Fells 12 times and completed 11 of their passes for 117 yards and three tight ends. He could adequately fill Dwayne Allen’s former role in New England.
DE Eli Harold: Playing 23.1% of Detroit’s defensive snaps, the 79th selection of the 2015 draft finished the season with 4.0 sacks and 5 quarterback hits. While not bringing the same athletic upside to the table as fellow Loins free agent Ezekiel Ansah, Harold could be a low-cost rotational option for the Patriots.
DT Mike Pennel: At 6’4, 330 lbs, he is a big-bodied presence at the heart of the defensive line, capable to taking on double teams and controlling the point of attack in the two-gap scheme New England runs. While not exactly the highest-upside pass rushing option, the 27-year-old could help the Patriots replace Malcom Brown and Danny Shelton.
DT Darius Philon: A former sixth-round draft pick, the 6’1, 300 lbs defensive tackle could help the Patriots fill the spots formerly held by the aforementioned Brown and Shelton — all while providing more upside as a pass rusher.
DE Cameron Wake: The 37-year-old is still capable of playing at a high level in the NFL against both the pass and the run. In 2018, he was second on the Miami Dolphins with 6.0 sacks all while playing 47.8% of the club’s defensive snaps. An experienced player that might be willing to take a discount in order to chase a Super Bowl in the twilight of his career
WR Kevin White: The former first-round draft pick looks like a classic Patriots reclamation project: he struggled with injuries during his four-year tenure with the Chicago Bears and therefore hits free agency with his value at an all-time low. The Patriots could opt to bring the 26-year-old in as a cheap but high-upside option.
SBNation’s Christian D’Andrea has also been keeping a list of the top free agents this offseason, and the following options are still available on it to possibly fill the Patriots’ primary positions of need:
Defensive edge: Ezekiel Ansah, Justin Houston, Alex Okafor, Bruce Irvin, Michael Johnson, Shane Ray
Defensive interior: Ndamukong Suh, Sheldon Richardson, Muhammad Wilkerson, Earl Mitchell, Shamar Stephen, Corey Liuget
Wide receiver: Golden Tate, Randall Cobb, Cole Beasley, Tyrell Williams
Tight end: Jared Cook, Tyler Eifert
*Mike Pennel, Cameron Wake, Allen Bailey also mentioned
While not all of the options listed make sense for the Patriots, it would not be a surprise to see the team target players like former Detroit Lions edge rusher Ezekiel Ansah or ex-Kansas City Chief Justin Houston — both depending on the asking price, however. The same has to be said for players like wide receivers Golden Tate, Cole Beasley or Tyrell Williams. All three would function well in New England’s offense, but whether or not they do the same on the team’s books can be questioned.
Nevertheless, the Patriots still have plenty of external players available to go after if they so please.