The New England Patriots have lost another member of their free agency class. Cornerback Joejuan Williams, whose rookie contract with the Patriots expired last month, has signed a contract with the Minnesota Vikings.
Williams’ stint with the Patriots never lived up to his status as a second-round pick in the 2019 draft, so it seems unlikely fans will be too upset to see him go. What exactly does the move mean for the team, though? Let’s find out.
A disappointing tenure is over: The Patriots moved up 11 spots in the 2019 draft to bring Williams on board, but he never justified the move. The numbers tell you all you need to know: he appeared in only 38 out of a possible 68 regular season and playoff games, never played more than 24 percent of defensive snaps in a single season, has yet to register a takeaway, and gave up 400 yards and three touchdowns on just 42 career targets.
His final game was, unfortunately, a perfect encapsulation of his time in New England. In a wild card playoff loss to the Buffalo Bills to end the Patriots’ 2021 season, he surrendered four catches on six targets for 72 yards and a touchdowns. He ultimately ended up benched.
This was expected: Unsurprisingly, the writing was on the wall for Williams to leave New England after four mostly disappointing seasons (including 2022 which he spent on injured reserve). We said so ourselves in his free agency profile:
While expectations are oftentimes unfairly placed on early-round draft selections, it is fair to say that Williams failed to justify the 45th overall pick in 2019 being spent on him. He never showed he can be a consistent player on defense despite his intriguing combination of size and athleticism. Add the fact that the Patriots might add another cornerback early in this year’s draft after already adding Marcus Jones and Jack Jones in 2021, and you see why there are a lot of arguments against a return.
The main question was not if Williams would leave, but when. Now we know.
Williams is not expected to factor into the compensatory draft picks formula: Despite Williams’ draft pedigree, his contract likely will come relatively cheap for the Vikings. In turn, it will not help sway the compensatory formula in New England’s favor.
Even if it did, however, extra draft capital coming New England’s way in 2024 is not in the cards. The only qualifying departures so far — wide receivers Jakobi Meyers and Nelson Agholor to Las Vegas and Baltimore, respectively — are canceled out by other outside free agents being signed by the Patriots. They are therefore actually two players in the red, and Williams will not change that.
William’s departure does not impact the cornerback group too much: While it is entirely possible the Patriots draft a cornerback early next week — in part because they whiffed on the Williams selection four years ago — the current group as a whole is set up somewhat decently even with him headed to Minnesota. For starters, Jonathan Jones was re-signed in free agency and Myles Bryant also retained as a restricted free agent.
The two are joined by sophomores Marcus and Jack Jones, Jalen Mills, Shaun Wade, Quandre Mosely and Rodney Randle. While Mills might be moving to safety and the latter three project as little more than depth options, retaining Williams would not have moved the needle all that much.
Only three free agents are left standing. With Williams now off the market and headed to Minnesota, only three members of the Patriots’ 2022 team are left unaccounted for: offensive tackles Isaiah Wynn and Marcus Cannon, and punter Michael Palardy.
Wynn, a former first-round draft pick and starting left tackle for New England, is the highest-profile member of the group. However, neither he nor the other two should be expected back.