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NFL free agency: 8 available players who would still make sense for the Patriots

Free agency has slowed down, but a few intriguing players are still available on the market.

Las Vegas Raiders v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

The New England Patriots have already been quite active since the start of free agency last week: they brought in six outside players, and kept 13 of their own either through re-signing or restricted free agency tenders.

With $14.53 million in salary cap space still available, per Miguel Benzan, the Patriots still have the potential to make additional moves. While a lot of attention is on the wide receiver trade market, the second wave of free agency might also be worth diving into.

So, with that said, let’s take a look at eight players who would still make sense for the Patriots.

RB Jerick McKinnon (UFA): McKinnon entered free agency off a bounce-back season of sorts that saw him register 895 total yards from scrimmage for the world-champion Chiefs. While he is a capable ball-carrier, his primary value lies in the passing game: he caught 61 passes for 544 yards and nine touchdowns in 2022. J.D. McKissic, who was recently released by Washington, would also make sense to help fill the Patriots’ receiving back role.

WR Olamide Zaccheaus (UFA): A former undrafted free agent, Zaccheaus improved every year since entering the NFL in 2019. The 2022 season was his best to date, and he ended it with 40 receptions for 533 yards and three touchdowns — all while catching passes from the likes of Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder. The Patriots are relatively well set at their interior wide receiver position, but Zaccheaus’ would be a low-risk/high-reward pickup to bolster the group’s depth and possibly create some flexibility regarding Kendrick Bourne.

TE Irv Smith Jr. (UFA): Injuries and inconsistent play have plagued the former second-round draft pick in his four years with the Minnesota Vikings. Will a new team bring any changes? That remains to be seen. He might be worth a low-cost flier, though, especially considering that his skillset is more well-rounded than that of recent free agent pickup Mike Gesicki.

DT Jordan Phillips (UFA): Phillips underwent surgery on a torn rotator cuff earlier this offseason but projects to be ready for training camp. While he might return to Buffalo, New England bringing him in as a big-bodied gap-plugger up front would also make sense. At 6-foot-6, 330 pounds, he would be cheap yet experienced competition for recently re-signed nose tackle Carl Davis.

DE Trey Flowers (UFA): A former fourth-round draft pick by the Patriots, injuries have limited Flowers’ impact over the last three years: spending time in Detroit and Miami, he appeared in just 18 of a possible 51 games since the 2020 season. That said, he is still relatively young — Flowers will turn 30 in August — and has experience in the system. If the medicals check out, adding him to provide depth on the edge would make sense after he visited New England last week.

CB Rock Ya-Sin (UFA): A trade acquisition by the Matt Groh/Josh McDaniels-led Las Vegas Raiders last year, the former second-round draft pick remains unsigned despite being one of the better options available at cornerback this year. He did end 2022 with a knee injury, and his medicals are a question mark. When he was on the field, though, he played some good football; Ya-Sin gave up receptions on just 58.5 percent of the passes thrown his way. He would add starter-level potential, especially with Jalen Mills getting released last week.

S Taylor Rapp (UFA): Like Trey Flowers, Rapp also visited the Patriots last week. While not the same player type like the one he would help replace — retired Devin McCourty — the 25-year-old is an intriguing option checking a lot of boxes. He has impressive positional flexibility, experience, and is a sound tackler with a physical edge. Ideally, he would become another this year’s Jabrill Peppers: a chess piece for New England to use in its already versatile secondary.

P Corliss Waitman (UFA): The 27-year-old was originally tendered by the Denver Broncos as an exclusive-rights free agent, but the team rescinded the offer this week to make him a free agent. The Patriots are quite familiar with Waitman: he had a brief stint on their practice squad in 2021. The Belgian-born punter averaged 46.6 yards per kick last season with a net of 41.4.

Obviously, the market is a lot deeper than those eight players; and there are several other players who could still be brought in by the Patriots. When looking at the current roster, however, they would make plenty of sense either to address current needs or simply bolster the overall team depth.