What, you thought NFL free agency was over? No, sir.
As of 4 p.m. ET on Monday, free agents who sign with new teams no longer count toward the NFL’s compensatory pick formula, meaning a club can add a veteran player without having to worry about potentially losing a pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
The New England Patriots, masters at stockpiling comp picks, signed six free agents during this post-draft period last spring: Jamie Collins, Ben Watson, Shilique Calhoun, Nick Thurman, Dontrelle Inman and Jared Veldheer. They also re-signed one of their own free agents, Danny Shelton.
They’d need to do some salary cap maneuvering in order to add any additional players this year — they currently don’t even have enough space to sign their rookies — but here are some of the ones who still are available:
Newton is the flashy name on this list, but the Patriots have not shown interest in the former Carolina Panthers signal-caller, according to a report from Jeff Howe of The Athletic. They chose not to draft a quarterback but added two undrafted free agents in J’Mar Smith and Brian Lewerke to join Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer. We doubt they’ll add another veteran to that mix at this point.
The Patriots are well-stocked at running back with Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Brandon Bolden and Damien Harris all returning and intriguing UDFA J.J. Taylor now aboard. They carried seven backs into training camp in 2016, 2017 and 2018, though, so there could be room for another low-cost vet in this group.
The Patriots added a slew of receivers over the last few days, but none of them came through the draft. They agreed to terms with veteran Marqise Lee before Round 1 and signed four undrafted free agents after Round 7, declining to dip their toes into what was considered a historically deep draft class of wideouts. While their receiving corps — which Bill Belichick defended Saturday — has potential if everyone comes back healthy and players like N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers improve in Year 2, adding a veteran at the right price wouldn’t be the worst idea. Devin McCourty pounded the table for Hogan in a recent podcast, saying New England should bring back the ex-Patriot.
New England could have an entirely new tight end room this season after drafting Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene in the third round and signing three UDFAs. If it’s looking for more reinforcements, ex-Pro Bowler Walker is the best available free agent.
If there’s any Patriots position that still needs addressing, it’s tackle. Yodny Cajuste (zero NFL snaps to date) and Korey Cunningham (played in just one game last season) currently are the team’s only backup options behind starters Isaiah Wynn and Marcus Cannon, and New England learned last season the perils of poor tackle depth. Sixth-round draft pick Justin Herron played left tackle at Wake Forest but projects as a guard in the pros. Would New England consider bringing back Waddle, who was a solid swing tackle in his first go-round with the Patriots?
INTERIOR OFFENSIVE LINEMEN
David Andrews’ announcement that he’s been cleared to play this season was a huge boost for the Patriots’ O-line. New England drafted three players who project as interior offensive linemen (Michael Onwenu, Herron and Dustin Woodard), but all three were sixth- or seventh-round picks, meaning they aren’t locks to make the 53-man roster. They’ll compete with Hjalte Froholdt, Jermaine Eluemunor and Najee Toran for Ted Karras’ old spot as the team’s top iOL reserve. Ferentz also could re-sign if the Patriots want to add another capable snapper.
The Patriots haven’t added much beef to their defensive line this offseason, swapping out Shelton for Beau Allen in free agency and signing William & Mary’s Bill Murray and Louisiana Tech’s Courtney Wallace as UDFAs. Perhaps they’ll bring in another big body before camp starts.
The Patriots loaded up on edge types during draft weekend, using back-to-back Day 2 picks on Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings and taking fliers on talented UDFAs Nick Coe and Trevon Hill.
Off-the-ball linebacker was one of the Patriots’ biggest needs entering the draft given their lack of depth behind Dont’a Hightower and Ja’Whaun Bentley. Uche, who played both on the edge and off the ball at Michigan, will help fill that void. Sixth-round pick Cassh Maluia and UDFAs De’Jon “Scoota” Harris and Kyahva Tezino will battle for roster spots. If Belichick wants to bring in an additional veteran, there are some well-known names on that list.
The Patriots’ cornerback group is one of the deepest in the NFL. They’re all set here.
After using their top pick on safety Kyle Dugger, the Patriots are good here, too.