Patriots Free Agency: Eight Players Who Could Interest New England Next Week

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Free agent defensive end Chris Smith

Photo via Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY Sports Images

The majority of the offseason focus since the New England Patriots lost Super Bowl LII last month has been on the team’s own free agents and 2018 NFL Draft prospects.

But the Patriots have been freeing up salary cap room that should allow them to spend at the start of the new league year March 14 at 4 p.m. ET.

Here are some players who could interest the Patriots.

RB DOUG MARTIN
The Patriots need help at running back, and Martin would come as a low-risk option with potentially high upside. He could be cooked, after averaging just 2.9 yards per carry in 2016 and 2017, but it also might be worth bringing him on board to compete with Mike Gillislee for the team’s short-yardage role in training camp.

RB SHANE VEREEN
The Patriots allowed Vereen to walk as a free agent after the 2014 season. The Patriots probably would have brought him back, but the New York Giants were willing to significantly outbid them. Vereen could serve as another pass-catching option in the Patriots’ backfield if they can’t bring back Rex Burkhead or Dion Lewis.

TE TYLER EIFERT
Eifert has played just 10 games over the last two seasons as he’s dealt with back injuries. He’s one of the best and most complete tight ends in the NFL when healthy, but that’s been rare as of late.

The Patriots could use all the tight end help they can get with Martellus Bennett released, Dwayne Allen likely next on the chopping block and Rob Gronkowski contemplating retirement.

TE TROY NIKLAS
Nicklas didn’t do much for the Arizona Cardinals after they spent a second-round pick on him in 2014. He’s still only 25 years old, however, and could be viewed as a low-cost reclamation project.

DE CHRIS SMITH
Here’s where we start to get into some Bret Bielema connections. Bielema went to the NFL Scouting Combine as a representative of the Patriots, and he coached Smith for one year at Arkansas.

Smith played three seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars before being traded to the Cincinnati Bengals last offseason. He has just 7.5 sacks over four seasons, but the Patriots need edge help, and Smith could come cheap.

DT BEAU ALLEN
Allen is another guy who played under Bielema in college. Bielema coached Allen for three seasons at Wisconsin. He was on the Philadelphia Eagles’ Super Bowl LII-winning squad and could add some depth at defensive tackle.

LB PRESTON BROWN
Brown told the Boston Herald he’s interested in joining the Patriots, and the feeling reportedly is mutual. Brown would immediately upgrade the Patriots’ starting linebacking corps

YET TO BE AVAILABLE CB
It seems the Patriots will go after either Aqib Talib or Richard Sherman once they become available. Both players reportedly are expected to be released or traded soon.

Talib is the safer option to bring on board, though Sherman, coming off a torn Achilles, is younger and has higher upside. The Patriots can’t go wrong with either player.

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