No team in the NFL made as many splash signings over the last week as the New England Patriots. Entering both the legal tampering window on Monday and the new league year on Wednesday among the leaders in salary cap space, the Patriots improved the talent level across their roster — from signing big-name free agents to bringing valuable players in all three phases back into the fold.
Despite all those moves, there are still plenty of players who were with the team in 2020 that are currently unaccounted for. What is going on with them? Let’s try to find out.
WR Quincy Adeboyejo (Profile): The Patriots had a decision to make about the exclusive-rights free agent by Wednesday’s deadline, and they opted to let him enter the open market. Given that his tender level was only $660,000, it is fair to say that they are moving in a different direction and that the 25-year-old should not be expected back.
RB Rex Burkhead (Profile): Coming off a season that ended prematurely due to a severe knee injury, Burkhead has had a quiet free agency period so far. There still appears to be a chance that he eventually returns to New England on a low-cost deal, despite the Patriots doing their due diligence on plenty of running backs currently available on the open market.
WR Damiere Byrd (Profile): Byrd was a productive player for the Patriots’ passing offense in 2020, and finished the season ranked second in receiving yards and third in catches and touchdowns. The additions of Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne make a return far less of a certainty, however. The 28-year-old, meanwhile, took to social media to seemingly sum up his free agency experience in a one-word post: “Patience.”
LB Shilique Calhoun (Profile): The Patriots bolstered their defensive edge last week by signing Matthew Judon and Kyle Van Noy, so Calhoun could be on his way out after two seasons in New England. Add the fact that Chase Winovich, Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings were all added high in the draft the last two years and there might not be a spot for the 29-year-old on the roster — unless he agrees to come back on a near-minimum deal.
OT Jermaine Eluemunor (Profile): After starting the 2020 season as the Patriots’ right tackle, Eluemunor ended it in a backup capacity. He would not look at anything more in a return to New England given the recent addition of Trent Brown, meaning that a departure appears to be the most realistic scenario at the time being. Of course, the team could still decide to retain him on a cost-effective deal to serve as an experienced and versatile depth player.
C James Ferentz (Profile): The Patriots re-signed David Andrews and also brought back Ted Karras as a high-quality backup along the interior offensive line. While Ferentz offers plenty of experience in that same role, a return seems rather unlikely at this point. If still unsigned at that point, though, he will remain so speed dial during training camp and into the season.
DT Lawrence Guy (Profile): Arguably the number one free agent left unaccounted for from the Patriots’ perspective, Guy not signing elsewhere just yet could be seen as a sign that he is evaluating his market. The Patriots will likely keep an open line of communication with the team captain throughout the process, though. Despite the recent additions at defensive tackle, a reunion still seems to be the best-case scenario for both parties.
QB Brian Hoyer (Profile): The Patriots already retained Cam Newton to serve as a veteran leader in the quarterback room this season. Accordingly, they have no real need to bring back Hoyer as well after he ended 2020 as just the third player on the depth chart. At age 35, his time in New England might be over for good.
CB Jason McCourty (Profile): There have been some rumblings that the New York Giants would be interested in the veteran cornerback, but so far no move has been made. The Patriots tendering J.C. Jackson and signing Jalen Mills, meanwhile, can be seen as an indication that they are planning to move forward without McCourty.
LB John Simon (Profile): Simon was a serviceable role player for the Patriots in 2018 and 2019, but struggled last year in a starting role. The edge additions being made are a result of this, and have put the 30-year old in the same basic boat as Shilique Calhoun: he will likely no be brought back on anything but a minimum-level contract.
RB James White (Profile): White is taking his time to assess what has been a slow market for running backs this offseason. He has received some calls already, and could come back to New England if nothing materializes, but a return still seems unlikely at this point.
As can be seen, there are a lot of loose ends in regards to the Patriots’ remaining unsigned free agents. The biggest among them — literally and figuratively — is Lawrence Guy, and the team still appears to be in play to bring him back. As for the others listed above, it seems as if most of them are headed for other teams considering how New England rebuilt its roster over the last week.
One big deadline for them will be May 3rd. That day is the official end of free agency as defined in the Collective Bargain Agreement, meaning that players signed afterwards will no longer count against the league’s compensatory draft picks formula.