After mostly sitting out the opening salvo of NFL free agency, the New England Patriots have been hard at work in Week 2.
On Monday, the Patriots made their biggest signing yet (internal or external), re-upping right tackle Trent Brown on a reported two-year contract. They also hosted four veteran free agents for visits or tryouts: cornerback Malcolm Butler, running back Leonard Fournette, offensive lineman Ryan Bates and quarterback Joshua Dobbs.
This activity illustrates that New England’s 2022 roster still is taking shape — that improvements still can and will be made even after the team’s sleepy start to the new league year. Whether those improvements will be enough to keep pace in what looks like a loaded AFC remains to be seen, but any final judgments rendered at this stage are premature.
As the Patriots’ roster-construction process continues, here are nine still-available veteran free agents who could be on their radar (not including the aforementioned four who’ve already visited Gillette Stadium this week):
WR Odell Beckham Jr.
Beckham tore his ACL in the Super Bowl and wouldn’t be an immediate contributor, but if the Patriots — who made a push to sign the 29-year-old in November — are confident he can recover, they could buy low on a wideout with high-end upside. Matthew Judon and Kendrick Bourne on Monday campaigned for Beckham to sign with New England.
WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling
The Patriots reportedly showed interest in the former Green Bay Packers deep threat during the legal tampering period, and he remains unsigned. Valdes-Scantling averaged 17.5 yards per reception over his four seasons with the Pack but caught just 49.8% of his targets, worst among all wideouts with at least 100 targets during that span.
WR Cole Beasley
Beasley’s outspokenness and political views could be a source of friction, but he was a productive slot target for the AFC East-rival Bills, seeing 100-plus targets in each of the last three seasons and catching 82 passes in each of the last two. Buffalo released the soon-to-be 33-year-old last week after trying and failing to trade him.
LB Bobby Wagner
Perhaps the most decorated player still on the market, Wagner was a Pro Bowler in each of the last eight seasons and a first-team All-Pro in six of those. He’ll be 32 in June, but he still can play, ranking third in the NFL with 170 tackles in 2021 and missing just three games since Seattle’s Super Bowl loss to the Patriots in 2015. The Seahawks released him as part of a rebuild triggered by the Russell Wilson trade.
DE Trey Flowers
A New England reunion has seemed like the most logical outcome for Flowers since news broke that Detroit was releasing him. The well-respected 28-year-old was the Patriots’ best pass rusher in 2017 and 2018 before injuries and a regime change derailed his Lions tenure. He’d boost a New England rush that was overly reliant on Judon and Christian Barmore to generate pressure in 2021.
DT Akiem Hicks
Another ex-Patriot, Hicks became a star for Chicago after spending most of the 2015 season in New England. Injuries have forced him to miss 20 games over the past three seasons, but he’s still an impact interior defender when healthy.
CB Justin Coleman
Yet another Patriots alum, Coleman would complement Jonathan Jones as another slot option as Jones returns from shoulder surgery. The 28-year-old spent his first two seasons with New England, then logged stints with former Patriots assistants in Detroit (Matt Patricia) and Miami (Brian Flores), playing 33% of defensive snaps for the Dolphins in 2021. The Patriots reportedly have shown interest in bringing him back to Foxboro.
CB Patrick Peterson
The Patriots lost top cornerback J.C. Jackson in free agency. If they’re looking to draft his eventual successor and want a short-term veteran stopgap, they could do worse than Peterson, who’s well past his All-Pro prime but still can be a viable starter.
CB Kevin King
The 26-year-old King played some of the best football of his career in 2021, but injuries sidelined him for multiple stretches and he finished the season as a part-time player in Green Bay’s secondary. He’s mostly played as an outside corner, which still is a position of need for New England after Jackson’s departure.