The New England Patriots have more than 20 players set to hit free agency when the NFL league year opens March 15. As that date approaches, we’re taking a closer look at each one. Next up: cornerback Myles Bryant.
2022 SEASON REVIEW
With Jonathan Jones moving to a new position as a starting outside cornerback, Bryant won the top slot corner job in training camp and kept it for most of the season. He was the only Patriots cornerback to appear in all 17 games (six starts), and he set career highs in tackles (70) and passes defended (six) while adding one interception and one fumble recovery.
Bryant’s 61% snap rate was seventh-highest among Patriots defenders, and in one game — a Week 17 win over the Miami Dolphins — he played every defensive snap, moonlighting as a 5-foot-9, 185-pound perimeter corner after injuries depleted his position group.
Despite his small stature, Bryant fared well as a run defender, with only safety Jabrill Peppers and linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley receiving higher run defense grades from Pro Football Focus. In coverage, though, the former undrafted free agent was inconsistent, making him the target of harsh and frequent criticism from Patriots fans on social media.
Of the 56 NFL cornerbacks who played at least 450 coverage snaps this season, Bryant ranked 40th in snaps per reception allowed, 46th in passer rating against and 50th in both PFF coverage grade and catch rate against.
Bryant also dealt with some early-season ball security issues as a punt returner, causing him to lose that job to eventual All-Pro Marcus Jones, and made a costly special teams error in the Patriots’ season finale, blowing a tackle on the second of two Buffalo Bills kick-return touchdowns.
Unlike most Patriots set to hit the market next month, Bryant is a restricted free agent. That means the Patriots can choose to tender him at one of four levels: first round, second round, original round or right of first refusal.
A first- or second-round tender — one-year contracts worth a projected $6 million and $4.34 million, respectively — seems unlikely for a player like Bryant. (For context, the Patriots placed second-round tenders on J.C. Jackson in 2021 and Jakobi Meyers in 2022.) Because he was undrafted, New England would not receive draft-pick compensation if they use one of the other, cheaper tenders and another team signs him away. Both of those would be worth around $2.6 million.
The Patriots also could bypass the RFA process and sign Bryant to a standard contract if both sides are in agreement.
CASE FOR RE-SIGNING
Doing so would infuriate a vocal portion of Patriots Twitter, but Bryant is a smart, young, versatile player who can be a solid depth piece in New England’s secondary. He also has a fan in Bill Belichick, who’s praised the 25-year-old on multiple occasions, and likely would be relatively inexpensive to re-sign.
CASE AGAINST RE-SIGNING
Marcus Jones already projects as the Patriots’ slot corner of the future and will be favored to leapfrog Bryant in that spot as the 2023 season approaches. New England also lacked size and length at the cornerback position this season — only Jalen Mills and end-of-the-bencher Shaun Wade were 6 feet or taller — and might need to bump a player like Bryant off the roster in order to address that need.
More Patriots free agent profiles: Jakobi Meyers | Damien Harris | Nelson Agholor | Jonathan Jones | Isaiah Wynn | Daniel Ekuale | Conor McDermott | Yodny Cajuste | Jabrill Peppers