The days following the 2021 NFL Draft have been unusual for the New England Patriots.
In most years, the Patriots supplement their draft class with a raft of undrafted free agents, many of whom sign with New England moments after the final pick is announced. Last year, they quickly signed 15 UDFAs. At least one has made the Patriots’ Week 1 roster in each of the last 17 seasons.
This year? Radio silence.
It’s been nearly 48 hours since the 2021 draft concluded, and exactly zero Patriots undrafted signings have been announced, reported or even rumored.
Why the wait? The shallowness of this year’s draft class — the pool of available prospects was roughly one-third the size of last year’s — could explain it. The Patriots also loaded up their roster with veteran free agents and should have fewer spots up for grabs than usual this summer.
Head coach Bill Belichick did suggest the Patriots would be active in the UDFA market, however.
“We’ll just take the free agency process with the undrafted players as it comes and see how that goes and just keep working through things,” Belichick said Saturday after the draft wrapped up. “There’s still a lot of work to be done. We certainly had players come to our team after the draft process is over — David Andrews, J.C. Jackson, J.J. Taylor. You can go right down the line. There have been a lot of them. We’ll continue to work through the draft and rookie process now and try to improve the team in any way we can.”
With multiple weeks to go before the earliest possible on-field practice and seven spots on New England’s 90-man roster currently vacant, the Patriots still could add a small collection of undrafted rookies. They also could fill out their roster by bringing on a few more veteran free agents.
A number of notable players have yet to find new homes since the NFL league year opened in mid-March. And with free agent signings no longer counting toward teams’ compensatory pick formulas as of Monday afternoon, many of them are likely to sign in the coming days and weeks.
Which ones might pique New England’s interest? The Patriots don’t have any glaring roster needs, but they could benefit from adding another proven talent at cornerback and/or wide receiver.
For the former, re-signing Jason McCourty remains a possibility. He’s one of the few 2020 Patriots free agents who have yet to land a new deal, and the Pats don’t have an obvious replacement for him at the No. 3 outside corner spot behind Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson. McCourty’s twin brother, Devin, has one year left on his Patriots contract.
External options include Richard Sherman, Bashaud Breeland, Steven Nelson, Casey Hayward, Josh Norman, Darqueze Dennard and Gareon Conley.
As for available wideouts, that list features 2020 Patriot Damiere Byrd, Golden Tate, Larry Fitzgerald, Kenny Stills, Alshon Jeffery, Dede Westbrook and Danny Amendola (though we doubt Amendola would be welcome after his Super Bowl week comments).
Unsigned free agents at other positions include:
Offensive tackle: Alejandro Villanueva, Charles Leno, Russell Okung, Rick Wagner, Mitchell Schwartz, Eric Fisher, Dennis Kelly, Bobby Massie, Cameron Fleming, Jermaine Eluemunor
Edge rusher: Melvin Ingram, Justin Houston, Ryan Kerrigan, Olivier Vernon, Everson Griffen, Trent Murphy, John Simon
Linebacker: K.J. Wright, B.J. Goodson, Avery Williamson, Josh Bynes, Neville Hewitt, Mychal Kendricks
Running back: Rex Burkhead, Le’Veon Bell, Todd Gurley, Duke Johnson
Safety: Tre Boston, Malik Hooker, Kenny Vaccaro, Bradley McDougald, Will Parks
Defensive line: Sheldon Richardson, Jurrell Casey, Kawann Short, P.J. Hall, Geno Atkins, Damon Harrison
The Patriots likely are set at most of those spots but could use another free safety to beef up their depth behind Devin McCourty.