The New England Patriots have a long list of players scheduled to enter unrestricted free agency next week, but none of the 17 names is bigger than Trey Flowers’. The 25-year old is one of the marquee defenders about to hit the open market, and his name will naturally pop up in the news quite regularly over the next 10 days — especially with combine weekend coming to an end and free agency the next big date on the NFL calendar.
The rumor mill produced two stories about Flowers and his free agency outlook so far. On Friday, Draft Analyst’s Tony Pauline reported that the Miami Dolphins — the club now led by former Patriots defensive play caller Brian Flores — are viewed as the front runners to acquire the standout defensive edge’s services. Now, the South Florida Sun Sentinel’s Omar Kelly has added another rumor about Flowers.
According to what Kelly describes as a “very reliable source” in a tweet that was posted on Sunday afternoon, Flowers will receive a free agency contract that pays him between $14 million and $17 million per year. Seeing the former fourth-round draft pick get paid in the spheres of the NFL’s elite edge defenders would not be a surprise, though, considering Flowers’ body of work over the last three years and the ever-increasing salary cap.
The question, of course, will be which team would be willing to invest that much in Flowers. The aforementioned Dolphins appear to be in the race to a certain degree, but their financial wiggle room is limited to $9.6 million at the moment. New England and its $24.3 million in salary cap space after Saturday’s release of tight end Dwayne Allen will also be in for the bidding. Pass-rush-needy clubs with plenty of salary cap space like the Cleveland Browns, Tennessee Titans or New York Jets could also try to lure Flowers their way.
Of course, New England could also play one of the aces it still holds and place the franchise tag — which was set at $17.128 million this year for defensive ends — on Flowers. As unlikely as the move is given the Patriots’ track record and the cost it would create tied to one player, using the tag would buy the Patriots additional time to work on a contract with their star defender or get two first-round picks as compensation in case he left for another team.
Ultimately, Flowers projects to be the player to watch from New England’s perspective this season — one domino that could have a major impact on the other offseason decisions made by the club.
Kelly’s report about Flowers’ projected contract is not the only one about the defender, who led the Patriots in every major pass rushing statistic during their 2018 championship season. According to ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss, Flowers also recently underwent a minor clean-up procedure on his shoulder.
The procedure is not the first time Flowers’ shoulder is in the news. Over his four years in the NFL, the Arkansas product dealt with three different issues classified as “shoulder” on the injury lists: during his 2015 rookie campaign, he hurt it during the preseason, one year later he was limited in practice for the first three weeks because of his shoulder. Now, Flowers reportedly underwent minor surgery.
That being said, the surgery is reportedly not considered to have been of the serious kind and in turn will likely not impact the defender’s free agency outlook.