Free Agents: 5 Stay, 5 Go
It’s approaching two weeks since Super Bowl LII, which should be enough time for Patriot Nation to get through the fifth stage of grief. Losing LII sucks, but all should adopt the Tom Brady approach towards championships – his favorite one is always the next one.
The roster will go through some changes before the Patriots reach LIII (hopefully). There are upgrades to be made and there will also be holes to fill due to free agency.
New England has 17 free agents according to Sportrac.com. Instead of projecting every free agent’s future, I’ll project the top five that stay and the top five that search for greener grass. Both groups are in alphabetical order:
RB Brandon Bolden, S Nate Ebner, WR Matthew Slater: All three are special teams specialists so I’ll group them as one. Two of the three (Bolden, Ebner), should be cheap to retain. Slater is a different story.
Slater, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, is in position to demand a generous raise as arguably the best coverage man in the NFL. Even if he gets what he wants, a special team specialist won’t break the bank. Bolden and Ebner will get less, with Ebner getting the least after a season on injured reserve.
OT Cameron Flemming: With RT Marcus Cannon and LaAdrian Waddell sidelined, Flemming took advantage of the opportunity and made the best of his playing time. The 6-6 320-pound Stanford product started the final five regular season games and two of three playoff games.
Working in Flemming’s favor is Waddell is a free agent as well. The Patriots may not be able to afford to keep both back-ups. Of the two, if Flemming has a lower price tag, he stays in New England.
DT Ricky Jean Francois: Jean Francois had an off-and-on relationship with the Patriots in 2017, but he impressed when on the field. The 10-year veteran was stout against the run while the benched DT Alan Branch remained in the dog house.
If Branch is cut, Jean Francois could take his seat.
RB Dion Lewis: Ask yourself this – how many NFL teams would sign a 5-8 190-pound running back to be their starter at about $5 million per year? That’s Lewis’ calculated value according to Spotrac.com. Despite Lewis’ career year, most teams wouldn’t want a diminutive back as their workhorse.
What the Patriots offer Lewis might be about the same financially as the other teams. But New England may be the only team willing to start Lewis. The designation and additional snaps should be appealing enough to compel Lewis to re-sign.
OT Nate Solder: Quality blind side protection is hard to find. New England typically doesn’t spend big on free agent O-linemen unless to retain their own to maintain the continuity of the unit.
Solder just finished a 2-year $20 million deal. It might cost the Patriots up to $13 million/year to keep Solder around longer, but it would be money well spent.
WR Danny Amendola: He took a pay cut two years in a row to stay with the team. He out-performed his salary both years. He doesn’t have to take a discount for a third year in a row.
Danny Playoff, as labeled by TE Rob Gronkowski, had been clutch for the Patriots for the past two years. A lot of teams would pay very well for that attribute. Amendola deserves to cash in.
RB Rex Burkhead: He was a part-time player that didn’t play in every game, but still scored eight total touchdowns. Reaching pay dirt about every eleven touches is highly attractive. If Burkhead wants more touches, he has to go elsewhere. Being the third down back beats being RB James White’s back-up.
CB Malcolm Butler: We know this is gonna happen. As if CB Stephon Gillmore getting his money last year while Butler didn’t wasn’t enough, benching the Super Bowl LI hero for Super Bowl LII reinforced to Butler why he will leave. His Instagram post practically confirmed that.
It took an additional year, but Butler will finally get paid…elsewhere.
LB James Harrison: With injuries to the unit mounting, Harrison was a quick patch job for the linebackers. But with Dont’a Hightower, Harvey Langi, and Derek Rivers expected back in 2018, the long-toothed Harrison, and David Harris, will be shown the door.
OT LaAdrian Waddle: He worked his way up from being a back-up and that diligence paid dividends when the injury to Cannon gave Waddle a chance to start. Now Waddle can cash in those starts for a nice raise elsewhere.
Questions? Comments? Send to [email protected]. Follow @NE_Arena on Twitter.