Patriots’ Remaining Free-Agency Needs: Available Players Who Could Fill Them


New England Patriots fans can’t complain about their team’s inactivity this offseason, so they’d better find something else.

Coach Bill Belichick wasn’t content to let the Patriots rest on their laurels, acquiring high-profile veterans on offense and defense early in the new NFL league year.

New England probably could win a Super Bowl given how its roster currently is constructed, but more work could be done before the 2017 season begins in less than six months. The Patriots have just 63 players on their 90-man roster, with some veteran needs to fill.

Here are those positions and some players who could fit.

The Patriots signed Rex Burkhead to a hefty one-year contract, but they could use another big back to help compliment James White and Dion Lewis.

The Patriots could elect to bring back LeGarrette Blount or Brandon Bolden, both of whom are unrestricted free agents. Adrian Peterson still is out there but seems like an unlikely fit. Benny Cunningham, listed at 5-foot-10 and 217 pounds, also could contribute on special teams and in a pinch on offense.

Darren McFadden would be an interesting signing if he’s willing to play for cheap. He’s one year removed from a 1,000-yard season and fits the Patriots’ typical athletic profile.

The Patriots have Trey Flowers and Rob Ninkovich to start at right and left defensive end, respectively, and they acquired Kony Ealy in a trade with the Carolina Panthers. But their fourth pass rusher currently is Geneo Grissom, so they need another edge defender or two either in free agency or the draft.

Connor Barwin and Elvis Dumervil were released and wouldn’t count against the Patriots’ compensatory pick formula. The Patriots also could elect to bring in a veteran player such as Paul Kruger.

None of those three players would be promised starting roles, but they could be effective coming off the edge on third down.

The Patriots brought back Dont’a Hightower, so Elandon Roberts, Shea McClellin and Kyle Van Noy figure to compete for starting snaps next to the defensive captain.

The Patriots could look for depth and special-team prowess from free agents like Spencer Paysinger and Akeem Dent.

After losing Logan Ryan in free agency, the Patriots should look for a cornerback to man the slot — especially if Malcolm Butler is traded. Currently, Cyrus Jones, Jonathan Jones and Justin Coleman would compete for the spot under those less-than-ideal circumstances.

It would help to add a proven veteran such as Alterraun Verner or Nickell Robey-Coleman. Both players were released and wouldn’t count against the Patriots’ comp pick formula. Robey-Coleman is undersized but was effective for the Buffalo Bills last season, and would reunite with former teammate Stephon Gilmore in New England.

The Patriots’ need for another safety lessened when Duron Harmon re-signed, but they still could use depth behind Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty.

Will Hill, once was a standout in coverage against tight ends, is out there, though the Patriots might be scared by his off-field issues.

The Miami Dolphins’ Michael Thomas is a restricted free agent given an original-round (undrafted) tender. The Patriots could sign him to an offer sheet, and if the Dolphins chose not to match, New England wouldn’t have to give up anything for the safety. Thomas is a stellar special-teamer and a solid defender.

Thumbnail photo via Robert Hanashiro/USA TODAY Sports Images

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