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 offensive linemen (tackles, guards, and centers).
PATRIOTS FREE AGENTS
Trent Brown (T), Ulrick John (T), LaAdrian Waddle (T)
OTHER NOTABLE NFL FREE AGENTS
Tackles: Jordan Mills (Buffalo Bills), Ereck Flowers (Jacksonville Jaguars), Ja’Wuan James (Miami Dolphins),
Guards: Mike Iupati (Arizona Cardinals), John Miller (Buffalo Bills), A.J. Cann (Jacksonville Jaguars), D.J. Fluker (Seattle Seahawks), Quinton Spain (Tennessee Titans)
Centers: Ryan Kalil (Carolina Panthers), Matt Paradis (Denver Broncos)
Tackles: John, Waddle, Mills, James
The Super Bowl champs won another title in 2018 thanks in part to stability along their offensive line. The starting five enjoyed a mostly healthy season with very few missed games due to injury. The interior appears set with incumbent co-captain David Andrews remaining at center, and stalwart guards Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason to his left and right, respectively. Backup Ted Karras is a capable player at either guard or center, and the team seems to like the relatively smaller James Ferentz as well.
Tackle is where things get interesting this year. Brown was a candidate to receive the franchise tag from New England, but didn’t get it, so, he’ll almost certainly receive a lot of attention from other clubs. It’ll probably be difficult for the Patriots to match any such offers, if they even are so inclined.
After Brown, Tampa Bay’s Donovan Smith might have drawn significant interest, but the Bucs inked him to a lucrative three-year deal a week before free agency was scheduled to begin.
Having drafted Isaiah Wynn last year in Round 1, the Patriots might be hoping he can step in for Brown, despite having to recover from an Achilles injury suffered last August. But to be safe, New England likely will add some depth to the tackle position. John signed as a veteran free agent last offseason and appeared headed for a roster spot before landing on IR just before the regular season. He could easily be back to compete, as could Waddle, a reliable swing backup.
If the Patriots are looking for more experienced starters to fill a potential void at tackle, AFC East foes in Mills and James – players with whom New England is familiar – could be just the ticket.