2019 Patriots Free Agency Update

The New England Patriots have to retool the team again with key free agents signing elsewhere, and positional needs still in the balance before the 2019 NFL Draft. The Patriots hold six draft picks within the first 101 selections in the Draft, and conventional wisdom suggests the Patriots plan to build through the draft rather than free agency. 

The first wave of free agency ended with the Patriots not using their franchise tag or transitional tag on any of their free agents, a sure sign that New England expected a number of these players to join new teams. 

On day one of free agency, the Patriots made no moves while former Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers signed with Matt Patricia’s Detroit Lions for up to 5 years/$90 million. In Flowers’ place, the Patriots later traded with the Philadelphia Eagles for 33 year-old Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett, and signed free agent defensive end Mike Pennel to a two-year deal. Also at the end position, the Patriots resigned John Simon to a two-year deal. The Patriots also released 34 year-old Adrian Clayborn after one season. Despite these changes, defensive end appears to be a position New England will look to fill in the NFL Draft in April.

Left tackle Trent Brown, a valuable pickup for the Patriots at this time last season, signed with the Oakland Raiders for 4 years/$66 million, the largest contract given to an offensive tackle in NFL history ahead of former Patriot Nate Solder’s 4 years/$62 million figure with the New York Giants. In an ironic twist, Brown was acquired by the Patriots to replace Nate Solder at left tackle, and ended up making more money than the player Brown replaced. At right tackle, backup LaAdrian Waddle signed a one-year deal with Buffalo. Isaiah Wynn expects to be ready for the 2019 season, though the Patriots may still add another tackle in the Draft.

Wide receiver is the greatest positional need for the Patriots at the moment as the current depth chart consists of Julian Edelman and a group of receivers that have not been key contributors. Receiver Cordarrelle Patterson signed with the Chicago Bears, while the Patriots resigned Phillip Dorsett to a one-year deal, signed receiver Bruce Ellington from the Detroit Lions, and Maurice Harris from the Washington Redskins. Patriots receiver Josh Gordon hopes to return in 2019 after substance abuse suspended him for the rest of the season, and the Patriots gave him a qualifying offer in the event that Gordon is eligible to play. The Patriots hope to upgrade at slot receiver after missing out on Buccaneers receiver Adam Humphries, and former Patriot Danny Amendola. At this rate, the Patriots may look at slot receivers in the Draft.

At cornerback, the Patriots kept veteran Jason McCourty with a 2 year/$10 million deal, while cornerback Eric Rowe signed with the Miami Dolphins. Cornerback is arguably New England’s deepest position, and they will not have to make major changes for 2019.

Tight end is still a position that is up-in-the-air, due to Rob Gronkowski’s hesitation in whether to play the 2019 season or retire. The Patriots released backup Dwyane Allen before free agency, and signed former Denver Bronco Matt LaCosse at the position. Whether or not Gronkowski will play the 2019 season, the Patriots plan to draft a future replacement this year.

Defensive tackle is not a positional need, though the Patriots lost former first-round pick Malcom Brown to the New Orleans Saints, and tackle Danny Shelton still remains on the market. Adam Butler and Lawrence Guy have held down the position with tremendous play, so the Patriots may go into the 2019 season as it stands with this position.

Overall, the decisions made in free agency are always related to the Patriots’ plans for the 2019 NFL Draft in April, since rookies and rookie contracts are often viable replacements to veterans that become too expensive to keep in free agency. Since the Patriots hold a number of draft picks in a seemingly loaded Draft this year, it is likely that the Patriots address their positional needs after free agency. 

As the Patriots head into 2019 as defending Super Bowl champions, they are in an optimal position as they are now, though to make their title window last even longer while quarterback Tom Brady continues to perform at a high level, the Patriots need to make smart decisions during the offseason. Stay tuned for an early May update following the 2019 NFL Draft from April 25th through the 27th.

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