Bill Belichick has never shied away from giving former members of the New England Patriots a second chance. Soon, he might have an opportunity to bring another ex-Patriots back into the fold.
As was reported on Thursday, the Detroit Lions have informed veteran defensive end Trey Flowers that they will release him at the start of the new league year. Flowers originally joined the team in 2019, after having spent the first four seasons of his career in New England.
However, his tenure in Detroit was a struggle, in particular towards the end. Signing a five-year, $90 million deal, he ended both the 2020 and 2021 seasons on injured reserve and in total registered only 10.5 sacks in 29 games. For comparison, Flowers notched 26.5 quarterback takedowns in 46 games as a Patriot.
As a result of this and his $23.2 million salary cap hit for the upcoming season, the Lions decided to part ways with the 28-year-old. This, in turn, will give him an opportunity to follow the likes of several other players and return to New England.
From a Patriots perspective, after all, a reunion would make a lot of sense.
1. Flowers is still a good player. The unceremonious end of his tenure in Detroit aside, Flowers can still play. Despite his injuries, he showed that he is a tough end-of-the-line defender who is capable of setting a stout edge versus the run and being disruptive as a pass rusher. While it remains to be seen if he is still the same player he was with New England, especially from 2016 on, his upside in the team’s system cannot be denied.
1. Clean win vs Trent Williams for a stop— Taylor Kyles (@tkyles39) March 10, 2022
2. Forced fumble on Deebo with under a minute left to give DET a chance at a comeback
Bring out boy home, Bill pic.twitter.com/XmR3Cvlxsq
2. Flowers would address a need. While the Patriots made a major invest in Matthew Judon last offseason, and he lived up to expectations in his first year, the depth along the defensive edge is one collective question mark — especially after the Kyle Van Noy release. Josh Uche, Ronnie Perkins and Chase Winovich are all talented players, but they have yet to show that they can perform on a consistent level when asked to take on more prominent roles within the defense. Adding Flowers to the mix would give New England some security in case the trio is not up to the task just yet, thus raising the floor for the group.
3. Flowers would be a “buy low” addition. When Flowers hit free agency after the 2018 season, his value was at an all-time high: he was coming off a terrific season and had just won a Super Bowl. Oh, and the team bringing him in was led by two former Patriots employees. Three years later, injuries have changed his trajectory and forced the Lions to cut him. Flowers is still a prominent player, but he is in a different situation now than he was back when he first left New England. As a result, the Patriots might be able to take advantage.
4. Flowers would not count against the compensatory draft picks formula. Granted, this is only a minor part of the conversation, but we know the Patriots are surely considering all aspects of this hypothetical move. Since Flowers will be cut from the Lions and not enter free agency off an expiring contract, he will not be counted versus the NFL’s compensatory draft picks formula. This means that if New England was to sign him, it would not possible cancel out any free agency losses in regards to earning extra draft picks in 2023.
For all the arguments to be made in favor of Trey Flowers returning, there are some questions. The Patriots, for example, are currently short on cash: they are only $9.5 million under the salary cap at the moment and might need Flowers to take a discounted contract to return even if they free up more resources over the coming days.
Furthermore, the fit can be questioned a bit. The Patriots transitioned away from a 4-3-based defense after Flowers left, after all, becoming more of a 3-4 team again and investing in players suited to line up in such a scheme. Obviously, Bill Belichick has always followed the mantra “if you can play, we’ll find a role for you” but that is an aspect to consider as well.
At the end of the day, though, bringing Flowers back makes all the sense in the world for the Patriots if the financials work out. And it would also make sense for the man in question as well: a lot of players that flamed out elsewhere boosted their stock after returning to New England. A one-year deal might give Flowers a chance to take the same journey as players such as Trent Brown or Jamie Collins before him.