The moment New England Patriots fans have been waiting for is right around the corner: NFL free agency officially kicks off Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET.
Before that, the NFL’s open tampering period begins Monday at noon. That’s when teams can start contacting agents to work out contract parameters with players.
With over $50 million in salary-cap space despite swinging a few deals already, the Patriots can splurge. We’ve discussed the top options in free agency ad nauseam at this point, so let’s look at some under-the-radar options.
Josh Reynolds: The Patriots should be aiming higher at receiver than Reynolds, but the Rams’ No. 3 wideout fits in the mold of a Brandon LaFell or Chris Hogan. Meaning, he’s a tall slot option who could line up outside in New England’s offense. He played under former Patriots QB coach — and current Arizona head coach — Jedd Fisch with the Rams. Belichick takes recommendations from coaches he trusts with first-hand knowledge of players seriously.
Dede Westbrook: The Jaguars free agent caught just one pass and played in two games before suffering a torn ACL in Week 7. He could be a bargain after putting together some impressive years in Jacksonville before the injury.
Robert Tonyan: Tonyan is a restricted free agent. If the Packers give him a second-round tender, then the Patriots would need to offer Tonyan a contract and give up a second-round pick if Green Bay chooses not to match. If the Packers offer Tonyan an original-round tender, then the Patriots wouldn’t have to give up any compensation (Green Bay would just have right of first refusal) since the tight end entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent.
Tonyan is a bit undersized, but he was fantastic in 2020, catching 52 passes on 59 targets for 586 yard with 11 touchdowns.
Jesse James: James was just released by the Detroit Lions. If Patriots assistant Matt Patricia had a good experience with James as head coach of the Lions, then New England could come calling.
Ted Karras: Old friend Ted Karras is a free agent after one year with the Miami Dolphins. He could be a nice consolation prize if the Patriots lose David Andrews in free agency.
Poona Ford: Another restricted free agent, Ford — who went undrafted in 2018 — likely will be tagged with a second-round tender. Ford was PFF’s ninth-graded interior defensive lineman in 2020, so he might be worth that second-round pick.
The Patriots need a versatile nose tackle, and Ford fits the bill.
Despite playing different styles of defense, the Seahawks and Patriots typically value similar defensive linemen. Alan Branch, Sealver Silliga, Cassius Marsh, Jimmy Staten, A.J. Francis and Michael Bennett have played for both teams.
Tyus Bowser: Bowser is a classic Patriots edge defender who can drop back into coverage, set the edge and rush the passer. He was somewhat underutilized with the Ravens.
Denzel Perryman: Perryman is on the shorter side for an inside linebacker at 5-foot-11, but he packs a punch filling gaps in the middle of a defense.