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Free Agent Forecast: Defensive Backfield

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The new NFL year begins Wednesday, March 13, and with it, the advent of 2019’s free agent marketplace. Leading up to that first day, we’ll examine the landscape from a Patriots perspective, continuing with the defensive backfield (cornerbacks and safeties).

PATRIOTS FREE AGENTS

Jonathan Jones (CB), Jason McCourty (CB), Eric Rowe (CB)

OTHER NOTABLE NFL FREE AGENTS

Corners: Bradley Roby (Denver Broncos), Bashaud Breeland (Green Bay Packers), Orlando Scandrick (Kansas City Chiefs), Buster Skrine (New York Jets), Daryl Worley (Oakland Raiders – RFA), Ronald Darby (Philadelphia Eagles)

Safeties: Tre Boston (Arizona Cardinals), Mike Adams (Carolina Panthers), Adrian Amos (Chicago Bears), Tyrann Mathieu (Houston Texans), Mike Mitchell (Indianapolis Colts), Landon Collins (New York Giants), Marcus Gilchrist (Oakland Raiders), Earl Thomas (Seattle Seahawks), Kenny Vaccaro (Tennessee Titans), Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (Washington Redskins)

POSSIBLE PATRIOTS

Corners: Jones, McCourty, Darryl Roberts (New York Jets), Darby, Justin Coleman (Seattle Seahawks)

Safeties: Gilchrist, Thomas, Vaccaro, Kareem Jackson (Houston Texans), Clayton Geathers (Indianapolis Colts), Anthony Harris (Minnesota Vikings),

ANALYSIS

The Patriots appear to have a wealth of young talent at cornerback, what with rookies J.C. Jackson and Keion Crossen receiving significant playing time last season, while 2018 second-round draft choice Duke Dawson essentially earned a redshirt year due to a hamstring injury. So, it would seem there isn’t an urgent need to pursue the corner market in free agency this year. It’s conceivable that New England could bring back veteran leader Jason McCourty as a solidifying presence at the position (he has said recently that he wants to return), as well as young, fast special teams maven Jonathan Jones.

If the Patriots do look outside the organization for depth, former Patriot Coleman is an option. Darby, who suffered a torn ACL back in November, is young and talented, but injured – just the kind of player New England often takes a chance on in these situations. Skrine, meantime, is always a thorn in the Patriots’ side. They’d maybe consider signing him to avoid having to face him twice a year. More likely, they could bring back former draft choice Darryl Roberts to add to that mix of young corners.

Safety, meanwhile, is an area where the Patriots might want to explore a bit deeper. An infusion of youth is what they need in that part of the secondary, but an older, experienced starter like Gilchrist, who has familiarity with New England’s defense from previous stops with the Jets and Texans, is a possibility. So are the talented Thomas, who missed most of last year with fractured leg, and Jackson, a longtime starter in this league with considerable experience in the New England-like defense that the Texans play.

Seems like every year we talk about Vaccaro and the Patriots as a possibility, so, we’ll do it again in 2019. Under-the-radar players like Geathers and Harris can’t be discounted, either.

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