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Free Agent Forecast: Defensive Line

The new NFL year begins Wednesday, March 14, and with it, the advent of 2018's free agent marketplace. Leading up to that first day, we'll examine the landscape from a Patriots perspective, continuing with another potentially important position group for New England: defensive line.

PATRIOTS FREE AGENTS

Ricky Jean Francois (DT)

OTHER NOTABLE NFL FREE AGENTS

Ends: Ezekiel Ansah (Detroit Lions), Demarcus Lawrence (Dallas Cowboys), Alex Okafor (New Orleans),

Tackles: Beau Allen (Philadelphia Eagles), Star Lotulelei (Carolina Panthers), Dontari Poe (Atlanta Falcons), Sheldon Richardson (Seattle Seahawks)

POSSIBLE PATRIOTS

Ends: Ansah, Okafor, Denico Autry (Oakland Raiders), Will Clarke (Cincinnati Bengals)

Tackles: Allen, Richardson, Jean Francois, Bennie Logan (Kansas City Chiefs),

ANALYSIS

While it would be wonderful if the Patriots pursued big-name, big bodies like Poe, Lotulelei, and Lawrence, the likelihood is minimal, given this team's history in free agency under Bill Belichick. Lawrence will likely be off the market, anyway, if Dallas uses its franchise tag and/or comes to an agreement on a new deal with him, as is expected by many NFL observers. Poe and Lotulelei might command a price tag that's too steep for New England's liking.

At the edge/pass rushing position, Ansah (6-5, 275) and Okafor (6-4, 260) might be the next-best options after Lawrence, even though Okafor is currently recovering from an Achilles heel injury. Both players are still young and might be more affordable for the Patriots. Plus, they have sufficient measureables, experience, and proven productivity.

Surprise signings might include the likes of Autry and Clark, who also have the kind of body frames for the defensive end position that Belichick often craves, if not the household names of some aforementioned players. "Tank" Carradine of San Francisco and the Giants' Kerry Wynn could fall into this category as well.

At tackle, Richardson gave the Patriots fits when he played for the Jets, and New England was happy to see him traded to the Seahawks last season. In the past, Belichick has often brought in players that were productive opponents against his club, and Richardson would fill that Bill, as well as a need for talent at this spot. Logan would suffice here as well; so, too, DaQuan Jones (Tennessee Titans), who's coming off a late-2017 biceps injury.

Allen is another young player who would likely be more cost-effective for the Patriots, along with under-the-radar names like Clinton McDonald (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Jay Bromley (NY Giants), or Cedric Thornton (Buffalo Bills). Jean Francois, meantime, showed some promise this past season and could be back in Foxborough as a result.

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