Next up in our New England Patriots free agent profile series: linebacker Marquis Flowers.
New England Patriots linebacker Marquis Flowers is set to hit free agency next month, and his worth on the open market is uncertain.
Will Flowers be valued as a special teams ace, or will he receive a contract roughly matching the one linebacker Jonathan Casillas got from the New York Giants under similar circumstances in 2014?
The Patriots acquired Flowers from the Cincinnati Bengals in August for a seventh-round draft pick. Flowers was expected to contribute on special teams but wound up playing 283 defensive snaps in a pass-specialist role while starting two games.
Casillas, meanwhile, joined New England at the 2014 trade deadline in a deal that sent a fifth-round pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Flowers, like Casillas, is an athletic linebacker who specializes in special teams and pass coverage. Casillas had played more defense prior to his time in New England, but Flowers is younger and more versatile. He also contributed as a pass rusher last season.
Let’s check out Flowers’ 2017 accomplishments:
2017 stats: 32 tackles, 3.5 sacks, pass breakup, forced fumble
Highlight of the season: A 2.5-sack performance in Week 16 against the Buffalo Bills.
Chances of coming back: That’s a great question. If Flowers can be brought back for cheap, then he could serve as valuable depth in passing situations while also contributing on special teams. But if a team wants to pay him like a significant defensive contributor, then his return seems unlikely. It’s extremely difficult to predict how he’ll be valued.
Flowers is a bit more outspoken than a typical Patriot, both on social media and to reporters. It’s possible that would dissuade New England from retaining him, as well.
Linebacker depth: Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts, Shea McClellin, David Harris, Nicholas Grigsby, Brandon King, Harvey Langi
Contingency plan: The Patriots need to add more linebacker depth, regardless of whether they bring back Flowers or not. They don’t want to be in a situation where they’re forced to start him again in 2018, and they need a dependable third linebacker to play with Hightower and Van Noy while competing with Roberts for snaps.
New England should look for a player like Flowers, however, as his athleticism was especially valuable against mobile quarterbacks. Flowers ran a 4.51-second 40-yard dash coming out of Arizona in 2014. The Patriots should be looking for a similarly athletic player with starting potential in free agency or through the draft.