The Patriots made two significant moves during the second week of Free Agency with additions at two of the four positions mentioned in last week's regroup as their top needs. There are a lot of similarities in the signings of tackle Trent Brown and cornerback Malcolm Butler, as both have plenty of experience in New England and both signed two-year deals that are likely to be heavily incentive-laden.
At their best, Brown and Butler are impact players who have been championship-caliber with the Patriots, but both have concerns with Brown having missed 24 games over the last three seasons and Butler spending 2021 out of football. Brown is still just 28 years old and has the size to dominate, along with the versatility to play either tackle spot. Butler might be 32 but has been known as the kind of aggressive man-cover corner that the defense needs, they rarely come at a bargain.
These are low-risk, high-reward moves at positions of significant need that make a lot of sense but there is still more work to be done before next month's draft.
With 22 roster spots still open, New England is far from done with team building and as Free Agency enters its third week we're just arriving at the spot where the Patriots have traditionally done some of their best work. Despite all the movement of star players over the last two weeks, there are still plenty of appetizing options that could provide the similar kind of potential upside that Brown and Butler offer.
Here's a reset as we approach the one-month countdown to the draft.
|FA Signings/Acquisitions (Offense)||FA Signings/Acquisitions (Defense)||FA Signings/Acquisitions (Special Teams)|
|Jakobi Meyers - WR (RFA - 1 yr)||Devin McCourty - S (1 yr)||Nick Folk - K (2 yrs)|
|James White - RB (2 yrs)||Ja'Whaun Bentley - LB (2 yrs)||Matthew Slater - ST (1 yr)|
|Ty Montgomery - RB/WR (2 yrs)||Malcolm Butler - CB (2 yrs)|
|Trent Brown - OT (2 yrs)||Terrance Mitchell - CB (1 yr)|
|Brian Hoyer - QB (2 yrs)||Mack Wilson - LB (trade, 1 yr remaining)|
|James Ferentz - IOL (1 yr)|
So far the Patriots have inserted veteran free agents at most of their biggest positions of need. If the season started today, New England would have experienced starters at every spot, as the team looks to avoid forcing themselves to reach for a need in the draft. Look for these to be among the positions next addressed.
The departures of Shaq Mason via trade and Ted Karras via free agency leaves the Patriots without their two starting guards, and while Michael Onwenu could now finally get a chance to start at his natural college position (RG), and James Ferentz could fill in at left guard, the team could still use another veteran presence atop the depth chart. There aren't a lot of exciting options still out there as guard, and tackle for that matter, should remain high-level draft needs. Will Sherman's development in Year Two is also something to consider.
FA Fits: Trai Turner (PIT), Oday Aboushi (LAC), Jesse Davis (MIA)
Edge can be a fluid position in the Patriots defense whether it's a stand-up linebacker or a hand-down defensive end. Regardless, with Dont'a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy still on the FA market, the Patriots could have a high-level need for a tough player who can win at the line of scrimmage. It's one position the team has yet to make a move at, with only Matthew Judon remaining as a proven edge defender. Anfernee Jennings was a strong edge presence in college and could be due for a shot after missing 2021. Josh Uche and Ronnie Perkins have intriguing pass rush ability but their potential as early-down run defenders are still unknown. A proven vet would be some nice insurance if that trio doesn't develop, while a return for Hightower still could be possible.
FA Fits: Hightower (NE), Trey Flowers (DET), JaDeveon Clowney (CLV), Anthony Barr (MIN)
Another position where the Patriots have been quiet is at receiver, though they will return their top four wideouts. It's unlikely that the team is looking for a 30-plus former elite receiver at this point, there are plenty of those available like A.J. Green and Julio Jones, so it probably makes the most sense to look for a splash addition via the draft, one whose four-year contract will match Mac Jones'. Only Kendrick Bourne is under contract beyond 2022 so this is a position of significant long-term need, but adding some veteran depth still makes sense, even if just on a one-year deal. A reliable inside receiver would have the biggest chance for immediate impact.
FA Fits: Jarvis Landry (CLE), Will Fuller (MIA), Adam Humphries (WAS), DaeShawn Hamilton (DEN)