The new NFL year begins Wednesday, March 16, and with it, the advent of 2022's free agent marketplace. Leading up to that first day, we'll examine the landscape from a Patriots perspective, concluding with cornerbacks.
PATRIOTS FREE AGENTS
OTHER NOTABLE NFL FREE AGENTS
Jimmy Smith (Baltimore Ravens), Levi Wallace (Buffalo Bills), Stephon Gilmore (Carolina Panthers), Eli Apple (Cincinnati Bengals), Kyle Fuller (Denver Broncos), Xavier Rhodes (Indianapolis Colts), Chris Harris (Los Angeles Chargers), Patrick Peterson (Minnesota Vikings), Joe Haden (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Jackson, Fabian Moreau (Atlanta Falcons), Siran Neal (Buffalo Bills), Donte Jackson (Carolina Panthers), Apple, Fuller, Rhodes, Charvarius Ward (Kansas City Chiefs), Justin Coleman (Miami Dolphins), Peterson, Keion Crossen (New York Giants), Carlton Davis (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Darryl Roberts (Washington Commanders)
Even after not getting assigned New England's franchise tag, Jackson's situation deserves watching. Yes, he'll likely get considerable attention from other teams once he hits the free agent marketplace, but will he get the huge payday he's expecting? Chances are, he will, but if not, the Patriots might have a (slim) possibility of re-signing him.
Assuming he's no longer in New England's plans, there are plenty of cornerbacks on the market this offseason who could serve as suitable replacements. Let's start with Moreau, the kind of dependable player (he's appeared in all but five games since entering the NFL in 2017) who might be just enough under the radar to be affordable for New England. At age 27, he's also in the prime of his career. Moreau's Falcon teammate, Isaiah Oliver, a former second-round draft choice of Atlanta, missed most of 2021 with a knee injury. New England is often keen to sign players coming off significant injuries, as they're seen as value-adds.
Neal, also 27, has only missed one game in four NFL seasons, mostly as a substitute. The Patriots might like to weaken a division foe by luring Neal, who could see more playing time here in Foxborough. There's a similar situation with Donte Jackson of Carolina.
Former first-round pick Apple has good size (6-1, 200-ish) and is still young (only 26) but with six years NFL experience. Fuller, another former first-rounder, is a bit older at 30, but has proven a dependable NFL corner. Sticking with the former first-round-pick theme, Rhodes is a bigger guy (6-1, 215) and longtime starter in this league.
Ward is a young talent (25), but a proven starter who might command more money than the Patriots are willing to spend. Another big, young corner, 27-year-old Rasul Douglas (6-2, 210) of Green Bay is set to test the market after the most productive season of his career, which could make him more expensive than New England might want.
Older guys like 33-year-old former first-round pick Jimmy Smith, who spent his entire career with Baltimore, could be depth additions. Peterson might be a bit of a stretch, but it's hard not to covet a player as talented as him.
Again, the Patriots are not opposed to bringing back former players, so, keep the likes of Coleman, Crossen, and Roberts in mind. And yes, Malcolm Butler appears to want back into the league after a hiatus last season, but I wouldn't hold my breath on seeing him in a Patriots uniform again.