The New England Patriots ended the 2018 season in the best possible way, by defeating the Los Angeles Rams to win Super Bowl 53. In order to stay on top of the NFL mountain, though, the organization will have to quickly turn the page to get itself into a position to create the best possible team for the 2019 season. And a big part of building such a team is mastering the upcoming free agency.
If judged by the list of free agents to be, New England’s front office will be busy over the next week before the new league year officially is kicked off on March 13. Also over the next week, we will take a look at the free agents-to-be to find out who may or may not get re-signed by the Patriots; and who should be a part of the 2019 squad. Today, we’ll continue the series with cornerback Eric Rowe.
#25 Eric Rowe
2019 opening day age: 26
2018 playing time: 4 regular season games; 48.4% defensive snaps (pre-injury)
2018 statistics: 10 tackles; 7 catches of 11 targets, 106 yards, 2 touchdowns
2018 cap number: $1.10 million
After the free agency departure of Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe earned the Patriots’ number two cornerback role to open the 2018 season. In only the second game of the season, however, he suffered a groin injury that kept him out of the next three games. Rowe returned in week six, but played a limited role as New England’s fourth cornerback. He appeared the following week as well before returning to inactivity, and ultimately being placed on injured reserve in late October.
Why should he be re-signed? Rowe has generally been a solid option as a second or third cornerback for the Patriots when on the field, and his past productivity in combination with three years worth of experience in New England’s system could still have value to the club. Furthermore, the former second-round draft pick has upside as a bigger cornerback able to play in a press-man scheme.
Why should he be let go? Even though the Patriots lost Rowe midway through the 2018 season, their defensive backfield did not skip a beat — quite the opposite: the cornerback group of Jason McCourty, J.C. Jackson and Jonathan Jones alongside number one Stephon Gilmore was one of the best in football even without the veteran. Rowe’s lengthy injury history is also not helping his chances for a return.
Projection: While Rowe displayed plenty of potential time and again during his three seasons with the Patriots, New England’s deep cornerback group in combination with his injury history will likely prompt the team to go another direction. Rowe will likely leave the club to sign a two-year contract elsewhere, worth around $3.0 million per year.