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Could these former Patriots make sense in Free Agency?

Taking a look at some former Pats that are due to hit the open market and could potentially fill some needs for the team in a second stint.

From left to right: Chicago Bears defensive lineman Akiem Hicks (96), Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Chandler Jones (55) and Miami Dolphins cornerback Justin Coleman (27)
From left to right: Chicago Bears defensive lineman Akiem Hicks (96), Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Chandler Jones (55) and Miami Dolphins cornerback Justin Coleman (27)

Last offseason, there was a bit of a reunion party in New England, as the Patriots brought back some familiar faces in free agency like Ted Karras, Trent Brown and Kyle Van Noy. All three were easy fits with their old teams and all made sizable contributions during the 2021 season.

Though New England probably won't go on the same kind of spending spree during free agency in 2022, there are once again a collection of former Patriots set to hit the open market that could make sense to bring back into the fold. With a number of significant holes on the roster, including three left by Karras, Brown and Van Noy, the Patriots could tap some familiar faces to fill them.

Here's a rundown of former Pats that could be available starting next week and how much sense a reunion would make in each case.

Chandler Jones, EDGE

Age: 32, 2021 stats: 15 games played, 10.5 sacks

Since departing the Patriots for Arizona in 2016, Jones has been one of the most productive pass rushers in the NFL, logging 71.5 sacks in six years. Jones was always an interesting schematic fit in New England, and while his 36 sacks in four seasons with the Pats are still excellent, his game hit new levels in Arizona. There's no question the Patriots could use some impact players in their front seven, but given Jones' age and likely cost, it's hard to see New England overextending themselves for a return.

Nate Solder, OT

Age: 34 in March, 2021 stats: 16 games played at RT, Ranked 69th-of-83 qualifying tackles by PFF

Solder has been durable in three seasons with the Giants, not missing a single game, but has been moved from the left side to the right and had seen his PFF grades decline in each season. With right tackle Trent Brown set for free agency, Solder could be an affordable stop gap on the right side or as a third tackle, depending on how the team feels about Michael Onwenu. At almost 34, Solder would do little to solve the team's long term questions at tackle, with left tackle Isaiah Wynn due for free agency in 2023, but he would provide a baseline level of depth and stability.

Akiem Hicks, DT

Age: 32, 2021 stats: 9 games played, 3.5 sacks

Hicks had an intriguing seven games with the Patriots in 2015 before departing via free agency to the Bears, where he's gone on to put up 31 sacks in six seasons. Many were disappointed the Patriots allowed him to get away in the first place, as his disruptive ways along the defensive line were notable. While the defense could always use a player like Hicks, the development of Christian Barmore and the bevy of existing veterans within the d-line group probably means Hicks would be a long shot to come back.

Jacoby Brissett, QB

Age: 29, 2021 Stats: 5 GS, 2-3 record, 5 TD, 4 INT

Since being traded to Indy in 2017, Brissett has been a valuable spot starter and situational quarterback for both the Colts and Dolphins. Last year, reunited with former Patriots coach Brian Flores in Miami, Brissett started five games filling in for Tua Tagovailoa and once again held the fort as he did with Indy. His 7-8 2019 season where he threw 18 touchdowns and just six interceptions remains a highwater mark and why Brissett is likely to score another open-market contract this year. With Jarrett Stidham entering his final year and plenty of speculation about Brian Hoyer either returning or becoming a coach with the team, it would appear the situation behind Mac Jones is under control. Still, Brissett offers backup starting upside that Stidham and Hoyer might not.

Cordarrelle Patterson, WR/RB/KOR

Age: 31 in March, 2021 Stats: 618 rushing yards, 6 rushing touchdowns, 548 receiving yards, 5 receiving touchdowns

After emerging as a rushing threat with the Patriots in 2017, Patterson put it all together in 2021 in Atlanta with 11 total touchdowns and over 1,000 all-purpose yards, while he also remains one of the more dangerous kickoff returners in the league. There's always a way to picture such a versatile player back in New England, but how exactly he would mesh with the current crop of backs and receivers is tougher to discern. There are needs at both positions but Patterson wouldn't clearly check them off.

Darryl Roberts, CB

Age: 31, 2021 stats: 6 GP for WAS

The Patriots drafted Roberts in 2015's seventh round and he showed some promise as a man coverage corner in training camp before ending up in Injured Reserve for the year. Waived at the end of 2016's camp, the Jets picked Roberts up and he went on to start 24 games over three seasons for them. Since then he started five games for Detroit in 2020 under Matt Patricia, and then three games this past season in Washington. With major cornerback concerns and a lack of man coverage corners across the league, it wouldn't be surprising to see Roberts as a depth addition. He would be affordable and provide some insurance for a group that is extremely thin heading into the start of free agency. He's played nearly 3,000 NFL snaps.

Keion Crossen, CB

Age: 26 in April, 2021 Stats: 76 percent of special teams snaps for NYG

Like Roberts, Crossen was a seventh-round pick by the Patriots but he did contribute during his rookie season in 2018, playing 39 defensive snaps and 113 special teams snaps over the course of playing 11 games. He was traded to the Texans in 2019, where he maxed out playing 28 percent of the defensive snaps. But special teams have been where Crossen has made his biggest contributions. With the return of Joe Judge, Crossen could return for a special teams role, but it's hard to see him being much of a factor at cornerback, even if he's still just going to be 26 years old this season.

Justin Coleman

Age: 29 in March, 2021 Stats: 16 GP for Miami, 2 INT

Another former Patriot castoff corner, Coleman went back and forth between New England and Seattle early in his career as a hard-hitting slot cornerback. He joined Matt Patricia in Detroit in 2019 and then joined Brian Flores in Miami in 2021 as former Patriots coaches continued to tap Coleman's skillset. If he could play outside Coleman might be more of a slam dunk return but with Jonathan Jones and Myles Bryant in place, the team is fairly well set for inside corners. Still, he's a tough matchup piece with good experience who could be useful. It's hard to rule any cornerbacks out, especially if they're experienced with the Patriots' system and can play man defense like Coleman can.

Wait and See: Trey Flowers

Age: 28, 2021 Stats: 6 GP, 1.5 sacks

Though technically not a free agent, there's been plenty of speculation that Flowers could find himself a cap casualty which might open the door for a reunion in New England. He was given a huge contract when Matt Patricia went to the Lions, but his production and health have tapered off over his three seasons there. With a need along the edge, it's easy to see why the Patriots would want Flowers back and how much they could use him. Of all the reunions, this is one that would make the most sense.

Too Soon: Rob Gronkowski, Sony Michel, Stephon Gilmore

Yes, Gronk, Sony and Steph are all free agents, but it's probably safe to cross any potential returns to New England off the list at this point.

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