Ryan L. Fox
It just seemed like yesterday that the New England Patriots clenched their 6th Super Bowl title and were busy celebrating like it was their first time winning one. After the confetti was swept up, the late night talk show guest appearances were all filmed, and the ceremonial puck drops at local Bruins games, it was time for the Patriots’ front office to get back to work.
With the NFL 2019 season looming in the distance, Belichick and Kraft have to take a look at their roster. Although they won the Super Bowl, holes and positions of need on the Patriots roster have emerged and have to be addressed immediately if they wish to contend for their record breaking 7th Lombardi in 2019.
After wrapping my brain this for the past few days, yours truly has come up with some free agent targets the Patriots could go after during NFL free agency.
Name: Terrance Williams
2018 Team: Dallas Cowboys
He’s not a sexy name like a Golden Tate, nor does he put up the big numbers (20 receiving touchdowns in 6 years), and has a couple of red flags that would make Patriots fans raise an eyebrow (suspended 3 games in 2018 for a DUI). Yet his career numbers and his built (6’2’’ and 210lbs) are similar to that of WR Brandon Lafell, who signed with the team back in 2014 (Lafell had a career year in 2014, posting 74 catches for 953 for 7 TDs). More likely than not, Williams will have something to prove and the Patriots can get him on the cheap.
Name: Adam Humphries
2018 Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
You can make all jokes that you want about Humphries being the prototype Patriots wide out (i.e. a white, under 6 foot tall player that plays slot). All jokes aside, Humphries has drawn some comparisons by a few Patriots media members to former Patriots WR Danny Amendola. Coming off an 800+ yard season, he would automatically be penciled in as the #2 WR on the Patriots roster.
Name: Tyrell Williams
2018 Team: Los Angeles Chargers
It could be tough to pry Williams away from the Chargers. But at 6’4’’ and 205, Williams can give QB Tom Brady that tall receiver that could also stretch the field and draw away coverage from Julian Edelman. Not to mention that he could also provide another big red zone target for Brady as well.
Name: Greg Robinson
2018 Team: Cleveland Browns
A former draft bust that was able to revitalize his career with the Browns (words I didn’t think was possible to say in a sentence) during the 2018 season. With the possibility of LT Trent Brown departing via free agency, Patriots brass could look to Robinson as a cheaper option (ball parking $6-9 million per year). At 6’5’’ and 333lbs, Robinson is built for the role of guarding Brady’s blindside. Not to mention that the problems that plagued Robinson in his career (i.e. poor technique, footwork, etc.) could easily be fixed by Patriots offensive line coach/guru Dante Scarnecchia.
Name: Ereck Flowers
2018 Team(s): New York Giants & Jacksonville Jaguars
Like Greg Robinson, Ereck Flowers has the stench of a draft bust (9th overall in the 2015 draft by the New York Giants). From 2015-2017, he was protecting Eli Manning’s blind side but with so-so results. He has the physical tools and raw strength but his technique and footwork still needs work. Again, this could be fixed by Dante Scarnecchia.
Name: Za’Darius Smith
Position: 3-4 OLB
2018 Team: Baltimore Ravens
If you look at his career numbers, Smith continued to get better and better with each year being in the league. He had a breakout year in 2018, tallying 45 tackles (10 for a loss), 8.5 sacks, and had 25 QB hits. Smith also brings in versatility, being able to play both inside and outside linebacker roles. Smith also brings speed to the LB position as well.
Name: Tre Boston
2018 Team: Arizona Cardinals
Boston is coming off another strong season after signing a relatively cheap 1-year, $2.5 million with the Arizona Cardinals (79 tackles, 9 pass defended on 10 targets, 3 interceptions in 14 games with 13 starts). There could be a bidding war for Boston’s services but he should be a top 3 free agent priority for the Patriots. With Patrick Chung recovering from a broken arm suffered in Super Bowl LIII and Devin McCourty slowing down, Boston would be a significant upgrade to the Patriots safety corp.
Name: Trey Flowers
2018 Team: New England Patriots
Everybody and their money knows that this is the biggest ‘must-sign’ free agent the Patriots have to make. Not only has he been the heart of the Patriots defense during the past few seasons, he has shown immense versatility by being able to play at every position on the defensive line. Everything that Bill Belichick has asked Flowers to do, the young man has responded with a willingness to get the job done. Not to mention that by rewarding Flowers with a big time contract, it sends a message to the younger Patriot defense players that you will be rewarded if you follow the system and put in the time and work.
Name: Bruce Irvin
2018 Team(s): Oakland Raiders & Atlanta Falcons
If the Patriots cannot resign Trey Flowers, this could be a much cost friendly Plan B option. Although the age is something to be concerned about (he’ll 32 in November), Bruce has posted 5.0 sacks or more in 6 out of the 7 years he’s been in the league.
Name: Johnathan Hankins
2018 Team: Oakland Raiders
Tough times have fallen on Hankins since his time with the New York Giants. He has bounced around 2 teams in 2 years, posting just a combined 2.0 sacks in that stretch. However he will be a significant upgrade over the likes of Danny Shelton and Malcom Brown and won’t cost too much money as well.
I know that there is some concern that the tight end positon has not been addressed as a free agent target. This is because I believe that the Patriots will look to the draft to address this issue, possibly targeting one of the tight ends coming out of the University of Iowa (T.J. Hockenson & Noah Fant).
But like with any other team in the NFL, you can only guess who the Patriots will go after once free agency begins. However it wouldn't come as a surprise if the Patriots go after one or more of the players listed above. It'll just mean that great minds think alike.
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