When their offseason began in mid-January, the New England Patriots had 19 players under contract who were scheduled to enter free agency in March. One after the other, however, they were either re-signed or tendered, or left the club through the open market or by retiring. After the Patriots re-signed linebacker Shilique Calhoun and had to watch wide receiver Phillip Dorsett leave for the Seattle Seahawks on Tuesday, only three players remain left unaccounted for.
Let’s take a closer look at them.
Position: Place kicker
Opening day age: 35
2019 salary cap hit: $151,765
2019 statistics: 8 games; 14 of 17 field goal attempts; 12 of 12 extra point attempts
Experience: Folk entered the league as a sixth-round draft pick by the Dallas Cowboys in 2007 and was voted to the Pro Bowl in his rookie season. He was let go again in 2010, however, and went on to join the New York Jets with whom he spent a combined six seasons. He joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2017, but ended his season prematurely due to injury before spending 2018 out of football. A stint in the short-lived AAF was finally followed by the Patriots picking him up as a free agent midway through the 2019 season.
Free agency status: With the Patriots releasing 14-year veteran Stephen Gostkowski on Monday, they have a vacancy at place kicker. While the team should be expected to bring in a rookie in April to improve its long-term outlook at the position, adding depth and potential competition to the 90-man offseason roster also seems like a smart move. Considering who is available, Folk might be the team’s best option: he looked solid kicking in New England as Gostkowski’s third and final replacement last season — bringing experience with long snapper Joe Cardona and punter/holder Jake Bailey to the table — and will likely be available on a comparatively cheap contract.
Position: Interior offensive line
Opening day age: 31
2019 salary cap hit: $720,000
2019 statistics: 16 games; 11 quarterback pressures surrendered (1.0 sack, 2 hits, 8 hurries)
Experience: Ferentz entered the NFL as an undrafted free agency pickup by the Houston Texans in 2014 and spent two seasons with the team before joining the Denver Broncos. While he won a Super Bowl in Denver as a backup along the interior offensive line, the Iowa product failed to carve out a bigger role and was ultimately released again in 2017. Ferentz was then signed by the Patriots and served as a depth player for the next three seasons — including 2019, when he made the first two starts of his career.
Free agency status: The Patriots’ interior offensive line saw some movement since last week: starting left guard Joe Thuney and depth option Jermaine Eluemunor were given the franchise tag and original fifth-round level tender, respectively, while 2019 starting center Ted Karras departed for the Miami Dolphins. Ferentz, meanwhile, generated little momentum but would offer experience at a position that lacks just that from a depth perspective: neither Eluemunor nor fellow backups Hjalte Froholdt and Najee Toran have started a game for the Patriots yet. As the team found out first-hand in 2019, having experienced backup options such as Ferentz certainly is valuable.
Position: Offensive tackle
Opening day age: 31
2019 salary cap hit: $607,059
2019 statistics: 16 games; 30 quarterback pressures surrendered (7.0 sacks, 13 hits, 10 hurries); 3 penalties
Experience: Between getting selected in the fifth-round of the 2010 draft and joining the Patriots as a free agency signing in early September of last year, Newhouse spent time with seven different teams. While his experience cannot be denied, his staying power is reflective of the fact that he has struggled to carve out clear roles on teams beyond any rotational duty. Despite that, however, New England had to insert him into their starting lineup after temporarily losing left tackle Isaiah Wynn to turf toe. Newhouse was a weak link up front but the circumstances did him no favors: he joined the team late and was forced in a difficult spot shortly afterwards.
Free agency status: Given his inconsistent 2019 campaign in combination with his age, it is no surprise to see teams not exactly line up to bring Newhouse on board in free agency. As a result, the Patriots might be able to bring him back as a cheap depth option now that the first waves of free agency have died down a bit. That said, the ideal scenario from New England’s perspective would be to move forward with the younger options already under contract as depth behind starters Wynn and Marcus Cannon — especially given the optimism surrounding 2019 third-round draft pick Yodny Cajuste’s recovery after a year-long stint on injured reserve. It seems therefore unlikely that the Patriots bring Newhouse back.