Besides taking care of a few in-house decisions on Monday, it was a relatively quiet start to the NFL’s legal tampering period for the New England Patriots.
While New England missed out on top options at offensive tackle (Mike McGlinchey, Jawaan Taylor), safety (Jessie Bates III), and linebacker (Tremaine Edmunds), they maintained their resources and did not chase in the open market.
The Patriots will now enter Day 2 of free agency week with just under $30 million in salary cap space, allowing them to still make a splash if they identify the correct player. If they instead search the secondary market, here are five potential under-the-radar names to watch.
S Juan Thornhill
The Patriots now face the impossible task of replacing long-time safety Devin McCourty following the 13-year veteran’s retirement. One place they could start is with two-time Super Bowl Champion Juan Thornhill.
Thornhill, 27, has primarily aligned at free safety throughout his career in Kansas City, showcasing impressive range and instincts in the backend. At 6-feet, 205 pounds, he has the length needed at the position and has improved his missed tackle rate every single season. He’d be a strong, reliable piece to add in the post-McCourty era.
TE Jordan Akins
Following the Jonnu Smith trade, New England is left with just Hunter Henry, Matt Sokol, and Scotty Washington at the position. While they likely will tap into one of the best tight end draft classes in recent years, it would make sense to add another veteran at the position as well.
Akins could peak New England’s interest as a reliable veteran who won't break the bank. He is coming off a career-high five touchdown season and most importantly played under offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien in Houston.
LB Drue Tranquill
With Ja’Whaun Bentley, Jahlani Tavai, and Raekwon McMillan back in the mix, New England laid off Tremaine Edmunds and the rest of the top linebackers in free agency. If they hope to still add at the position, Tranquill, who could be one of the more undervalued players in free agency, could be their guy.
Tranquill, 27, has been one of the better coverage linebackers in football the past few years, exactly what New England needs to pair with Bentley at the second level. He also showed pass rush ability in limited reps and was a key figure on LA’s punt coverage unit.
S Duron Harmon
Part of the challenge of replacing Devin McCourty is replacing his IQ and knowledge of the Patriots’ system. So, how about turning to a former Patriot in order to do so.
Harmon had a bounce back season last year playing under Josh McDaniels, recording a career high in tackles. He played over 1,100 snaps — a majority at free safety — and still has a nose for the football. At age 32, Harmon won't be the long-term answer, but could be an interesting option while New England potentially grooms a rookie for the role.
CB Rock Ya-Sin
Sticking in the secondary, New England kept Jonathan Jones to a two-year deal but still is searching for size at the position. Another Las Vegas defensive back could be a worthwhile addition.
Ya-Sin had success in former Patriots assistant Patrick Graham’s man-heavy scheme last season after being traded from Indianapolis. He’s a pure outside cornerback that has good size (6’0, 190 lbs) and strong reps in press coverage, making him a logical fit in New England.