The New England Patriots are facing plenty questions in free agency, especially at the cornerback position. The team’s number one option, after all, is headed for the open market: J.C. Jackson is headed for unrestricted free agency and likely to become one of the highest paid cornerbacks in football.
But even if Jackson is re-signed, New England needs to improve its depth at the position to prevent a debacle such as the playoff loss in Buffalo from happening again. The draft is the most cost-effective way to add cornerback talent, but the free agency market might also offer some short-term help.
Among the players available is Patrick Peterson — a player who Pro Football Focus’ Brad Spielberger recently named the “one free agent the Patriots should pursue” in 2022:
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: CB PATRICK PETERSON
2021 Player Grade/Rank: 63.0 (67th)
2021 Team Position Grade/Rank: 74.3 (4th)
Peterson’s one-year flier in Minnesota was not a success, but it doesn’t seem like the wheels have completely fallen off the soon-to-be 32-year-old cornerback. He still managed to log 884 snaps, albeit while earning a 61.0 coverage grade — the second-lowest of his career besides his rookie season.
When signing with the Vikings, Peterson mentioned that then-head coach Mike Zimmer had a track record of success working with older players in the secondary. Bill Belichick, of course, has done the same with a handful of notable players over the years, and Peterson could look for the same situation. Peterson even went so far as to discuss the possibility of playing safety if that’s what coaches deemed him best suited to do, and his experience and flexibility could be appealing to Belichick if he’s looking to add a veteran to a young cornerback room.
One of the best defensive backs of his era, Peterson is on the back-nine of his career. Nonetheless, the 31-year-old might be a quality addition to a secondary lacking high-end depth at both cornerback and safety.
That all being said, there are two major questions: 1.) How much has Peterson left in the tank? 2.) How much will he cost?
If both those questions are answered in a favorable way from New England’s perspective, a union between the two is a possibility. However, the Patriots will prioritize Jackson over a cornerback in his 30s coming off the worst year of his career — especially one who is no long-term solution at the position.
More than anything, Peterson appears to be an emergency option more than a must-have player for New England. Bringing back Jackson and adding more high-end depth via the draft might be the better way to go, especially considering the Patriots’ salary cap situation.