The list of New England Patriots scheduled to enter unrestricted free agency this offseason is a long one filled with starting-caliber players. Quarterback Tom Brady is currently headed for the open market, as are guard Joe Thuney, linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins, and safety Devin McCourty as well as special teamer Matthew Slater. All in all, 19 members of the 2019 Patriots will see their current contracts expire on March 18.
But while Brady dominates the headlines, and the players above are also frequently mentioned as priority free agents, the Patriots will have to make decisions about all the names on that list — even those that do not carry the “star player” tag. One of those men is linebacker/fullback-hybrid Elandon Roberts, who spent all four seasons of his career so far in New England but is on his way to sail the free agency waters come mid-March.
“Yeah, I’m looking forward to it because this is what you work for,” said Roberts last week about his status as an upcoming free agent during an appearance on the NESN Patriots Podcast hosted by Zack Cox and Doug Kyed. “The last four years, [I] put together a great résumé and stuff like that, so I’ll just enjoy the process and that’s it. If the process puts me back at my starting spot, then that would be great.”
“But at the same time, if it puts me somewhere else that’s the name of the business and I will go there with the leadership and the mindset to do the best for whichever team needs me,” added the 25-year-old, who originally joined the Patriots as a sixth-round draft pick in 2016. Since then, he has expanded his role quite a bit even though he still saw most of his defensive action in 2019 as a rotational early-down linebacker in the running game.
But while Roberts may not have had the same high-impact moments last season as the Van Noys or McCourtys of the roster, he was still a valuable member of the team beyond his defensive contributions: he served as a team captain for the first time in his career, and also saw increased snaps in the kicking game and — after season-ending injuries suffered by both James Develin and Jakob Johnson — even served as a fullback on offense.
How this versatility and his championship pedigree will impact his market remains to be seen, but Roberts knows not to worry about what lies beyond his control: “I talked to a couple of guys just to ease my mind about it, because it’s not like you stress on it or worry about this and that. But it’s just like a mindset — like ‘man, how is this?’ And then, not being in the Super Bowl, you’ve got a lot of time on your hands to think, so it’s like ‘man!’”
“But guys gave me great feedback to ease my mind on the process. Now I’m just enjoying it,” continued Roberts, who is not expected to break the bank as a free agent but could still generate a nice market based on the number of ex-Patriots in front offices around the league — think Detroit and Tennessee — and his development over the last four years.