The 2020 NFL Draft may be over, but the New England Patriots can still improve their roster heading into the upcoming season. Starting today, the Patriots can sign free agents without having to worry about affecting the compensatory pick formula. With just over $1 million in cap space, it’s hard to imagine New England making too many additional moves. However, with several needs on the roster, the Patriots can still find a cost-effective free agent or two.
Best New England Patriots Free Agent Fits
New England doesn’t have much experience on the edge. After losing Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, and Trey Flowers in the past two seasons, the team is going to be relying on a lot of youth moving forward. Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings could be long-term fixes, but neither should be relied on too heavily in the short term. Thanks to COVID-19, offseason programs are going to be notably shorter, which will make it even harder for rookies to contribute out of the gate.
Jabaal Sheard is no superstar, but he has what it takes to be reliable role player in the defense. Sheard, of course, spent some time with New England in 2015 and 2016. We know he can be a fit in this defense, and he was still playing at a solid level last year. Sheard is the perfect guy to start in the short term while waiting for the young guys to get ready for the field.
This signing is more about what Delanie Walker can do off the field, rather than on it. New England doubled-down on tight ends in the NFL Draft, selecting Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene late in the third round. Tight end is probably the hardest non-quarterback position to learn in the offense, and the rookies could use an experienced player to help teach them the ropes. Walker used to be one of the better tight ends in the league and should help with that transition. If he happens to perform well on the field, then that’s just an added bonus.
The New England Patriots need a lot of help at wide receiver. Julian Edelman is entering his age-34 season, Mohamed Sanu could be a cap cut, and the jury is very much out on N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers. After passing on the position in the NFL Draft, the Patriots should look to add a couple more veteran receivers in hope of something sticking. Paul Richardson is probably the best guy left on the market that would sign on a team-friendly deal.
The New England Patriots lost Danny Shelton in the offseason and have yet to find a true replacement. While the presumed starting duo of Lawrence Guy and Adam Butler are solid, the team could use some more depth. Right now, Byron Cowart is probably the third true interior defender on the depth chart. If the team wants a more proven commodity, they could go after Mike Daniels. Daniels had a rough 2019, but that could be due to the fact he joined the Lions just days before training camp. If he reverts to his old level of play, he’d be a welcome addition to the defensive front.
The most likely way for the Patriots to clear cap space is by trading Joe Thuney. New England’s longtime guard is currently on the books for $14.78 million and the two sides are reportedly far away from reaching an extension. If the team wants to move him for a veteran or a 2021 draft pick, the Patriots could sign Josh Kline as a free agent. Kline, of course, spent a few years with the Patriots and was one of the NFL’s better guards during his time with the Titans. He’s coming off a rough season but could be decent insurance if Hjalte Froholdt or Michael Onwenu aren’t ready to contribute.
If the Patriots are looking to clear some cap space, they might decide to move on from 32-year old right tackle Marcus Cannon. According to Spotrac, Cannon currently carries a $9.6 million cap hit, but only $3.7 million in dead money. 2019 third-round pick Yodny Cajuste has first-round talent and could easily win the job outright if he stays healthy. However, New England will need a swing tackle, and they look to a familiar face in LaAdrian Waddle. Waddle made seven starts during his three years in New England and played at a serviceable level when on the field. He missed the 2019 season with an injury but could be a cost-effective depth option if healthy.
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