During the season, Monday is usually the day to look back and assess what happened in the NFL over the course of the weekend. And while the 2019 regular season will not open until early September, there are still plenty of opportunities to analyze what is going on around the league — especially now, that the first week of free agency is in the books. Let’s quickly recap it to see what the New England Patriots did or did not do.
Free agents re-signed by the Patriots
New England entered the offseason with 17 players headed towards unrestricted free agency. So far during the process, the reigning world champions brought only three members of their 2018 roster back into the fold:
WR Phillip Dorsett: Re-signed ($1-year, $TBD)
CB Jason McCourty: Re-signed (2-year, $10MM)
DE John Simon: Re-signed (2-year, $7.2MM)
Despite starting slowly into his first season with the Patriots, Jason McCourty carved out a role as a starting cornerback opposite All-Pro Stephon Gilmore and played some outstanding football late in the year. Phillip Dorsett and John Simon, meanwhile, were predominately role players. That being said, they were still valuable rotational members of New England’s 2018 team and could see their roles grow next season.
Free agents signed by other teams
While New England re-signed three players, double that left the team via free agency. And considering some of the contracts they were handed, the club should see at least two compensatory draft picks headed its way in 2020:
DT Malcom Brown: Signed by Saints (3-year, $15MM)
OT Trent Brown: Signed by Raiders (4-year, $66MM)
DE Trey Flowers: Signed by Lions (5-year, $90MM)
WR Cordarrelle Patterson: Signed by Bears (2-year, $10MM)
CB Eric Rowe: Signed by Dolphins (1-year, $3.5MM)
OT LaAdrian Waddle: Signed by Bills (1-year, $TBD)
The biggest names on the list of free agency losses are undoubtably Trey Flowers and Trent Brown, who joined the Detroit Lions and Oakland Raiders, respectively. Given the size of their contacts, the two will likely net New England two third-round picks next year — all while leaving big holes to fill at their positions, however.
The rest of the group consists of de facto starting defensive tackle Malcom Brown, kickoff returner and depth wide receiver/running back Cordarrelle Patterson, primary swing tackle LaAdrian Waddle, and oft-injured cornerback Eric Rowe. Brown’s contributions will likely be replaced by the recently acquired Mike Pennel, while the roles of Patterson and Waddle have no clear-cut successors yet. Rowe is the least worrisome loss of the six.
Free agents still on the open market
The biggest group among New England’s free agency class are the players still unsigned as eight man have yet to join a team. Some of them are prime candidates to return to the Patriots at one point:
P Ryan Allen
K Stephen Gostkowski
RB Jeremy Hill
WR Chris Hogan
LB Ramon Humber
OT Ulrick John
LB Albert McClellan
DT Danny Shelton
While Chris Hogan and Danny Shelton have reportedly been in discussion with other clubs, the remainder of the group is having a quiet free agency period so far. Of course, two of the players — punter Ryan Allen and kicker Stephen Gostkowski — are prime candidates to return to New England soon.
Outside free agents acquired by the Patriots
As usual, New England headed into free agency rather slowly before making a flurry of moves further down the line. In total, six players were brought in:
RB Brandon Bolden: 2-year, $4.7MM
WR Bruce Ellington: 1-year, $895K
FS Terrence Brooks: 2-year, $TBD
WR Maurice Harris: details not yet known
DT Mike Pennel: 2-year, $TBD
TE Matt LaCosse: 2-year, $4.8MM
As noted above, Mike Pennel is expected to help fill the role formerly held by Malcom Brown — which in turn could make him the free agency acquisition with the biggest potential to make an impact early on. The others, meanwhile, are mostly depth and special teams options: ex-Patriot Brandon Bolden and Terrence Brooks project as core members of the kicking game units, withBruce Ellington and Maurice Harris fighting for jobs at wide receiver. Matt LaCosse, meanwhile, could fill the role as the club’s top blocking tight end formerly held by Dwayne Allen.
Players traded for by the Patriots
While the Patriots were not as busy on the trade market as last year, they still made one transaction:
DE Michael Bennett: from Philadelphia Eagles
Acquiring Bennett was first announced before the legal tampering period even began one week ago, but the move was not made official until Wednesday — that’s when the market opened. The 33-year-old will help the Patriots replace Trey Flowers’ production and role as a starting edge defender.
Restricted free agents tendered
Before the start of free agency, New England also tendered both of its restricted free agents:
CB Jonathan Jones: 2nd-round level, $3.095MM
WR Josh Gordon (suspended): original-round level, $2.025MM
Jonathan Jones saw inconsistent playing time in 2018, but proved himself a valuable chess piece during the Patriots’ playoff run. Josh Gordon, meanwhile, was also tendered despite his future still in doubt: the wide receiver, who served as one of New England’s top-two when available last year, remains indefinitely suspended. However, it seems as if the club has him in its plans for at least the 2019 season.
Contract options exercised
New England had one player on its roster who had an option clause in his deal heading into 2019, and it was — to nobody’s surprise — picked up:
WR Matthew Slater: $400,000
Slater appeared in all 19 of New England’s games in 2018 and was on the field for 67.5% of the club’s special teams snaps. Once again proving himself one of the best gunners in all of football, he finished the season with 14 tackles and fielded multiple kicks to give the Patriots’ defense good field position — twice that happened during the club’s playoff run. Seeing the club pick up his option was just a formality.