New England Patriots Free Agents: Who Should Stay and Who Should Go

Patriots Free Agents

Like every other team in the league, the New England Patriots have quite a few crucial free agents set to hit the open market. The team missed the playoffs for the first time in over a decade, so the decision on who to re-sign will be more difficult than ever. The roster clearly isn’t good enough as currently constructed, but will there be better options in free agency?

As of this posting, the Patriots have 24 impending free agents. For the sake of this article, we’ll break each player into one of five categories: let go, cheap re-sign, sign at the right price, hard decisions, and break the bank.

New England Patriots Free Agents: Who to Keep and Who to Let Go

Let Go

Jason McCourty, Rex Burkhead, James White, Brandon Copeland, Terrence Brooks

Jason McCourty, Rex Burkhead, and James White are all good football players that, unfortunately, just don’t fit with the current direction of the New England Patriots. While not what he was, McCourty is still a solid cornerback. However, he’s also entering his age-34 season and is too old to be in the long-term plans for this team. Similarly, Burkhead and White are both at or near the wrong side of 30 and playing a position with a very short shelf life. Looking ahead, it’s better for New England to see what they have in J.J. Taylor and wish the two veterans the best of luck in Tampa Bay.

Brandon Copeland suffered a season-ending injury back in Week 7, but hardly saw the field prior to his injury. Terrence Brooks, meanwhile, doesn’t have much value with the emergence of Kyle Dugger combined with the presence of Adrian Phillips and the return of Patrick Chung.

Cheap Re-Sign

Jermaine Eluemunor, James Ferentz, Shilique Calhoun, Carl Davis, Jakob Johnson, Brian Hoyer, Justin Bethel, Nick Folk, Cody Davis

There is no such thing as too much offensive line depth, and Jermaine Eluemunor and James Ferentz have both proven capable of filling in for a starter on a moments’ notice. That depth could be more important than ever in 2021, but more on that later. Shilique Calhoun is far from a superstar, but he knows the system and provides valuable depth at the end of the bench. New England’s top two defensive tackles are about to hit the market, so keeping Carl Davis on the cheap could be vitally important.

New England’s run game was fantastic in 2020, and Jakob Johnson was a big reason for the success. Brian Hoyer obviously isn’t a franchise quarterback, but he’s a cheap, competent backup that knows the system better than anyone else. If the Patriots don’t bring back Cam Newton, then Hoyer should remain as the veteran mentor in the quarterback room. Nobody loves special teams more than Bill Belichick, so Justin Bethel, Nick Folk, and Cody Davis should stick around for 2021.

Sign at the Right Price

Lawrence Guy, John Simon, Damiere Byrd, Deatrich Wise

Lawrence Guy has been everything the Patriots could have possibly hoped for since joining the team in 2017. New England would love to have him for the future, but so would a lot of teams. As great as he is, you can only spend so much on an over-30 defensive tackle when you’re about to enter a rebuild. The same goes for John Simon, although the odds of him earning a massive pay raise are lower than Lawrence Guy.

Damiere Byrd has put together a solid season, which may inspire some teams to overpay for his services. While the speedy receiver has had his moments, he’s truly nothing more than a slightly better version of Phillip Dorsett. Deatrich Wise, meanwhile, is a fine rotational piece that could find a starting job elsewhere. If another team is willing to pay him starting money, then the Patriots should let him go.

Tough Decisions

David Andrews, Joe Thuney, Cam Newton

David Andrews and Joe Thuney are both two of the best players at their respective positions. Because of this, both players should earn massive paydays, and New England probably isn’t in the position to hand out massive deals to both players.

As it is, the Patriots already have a lot of money invested in right guard Shaq Mason. Handing out three big-money contracts to the three least-important offensive line positions with so many other glaring holes feels like a poor use of resources. David Andrews will probably be a little bit cheaper to retain than Thuney, and New England’s offense has been notably worse over the past two seasons when Andrews doesn’t play. Letting a great player like Thuney leave in free agency is never easy, but it’s in the best interest of the team.

Cam Newton has had an up-and-down first season in New England, with far more downs than ups in recent weeks. He’s not the long-term answer at quarterback, but he might be the best short-term solution available. Sadly, it’s not easy to find a franchise quarterback, and Newton will probably be cheaper and just as effective as someone like Jameis Winston or Jimmy Garoppolo. Considering he didn’t have a market last offseason, the Patriots should be able to sign him to a very affordable contract in 2021. In a perfect world, Newton will start for the first few weeks of 2021 before turning things over to whichever rookie the Patriots take in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Break the Bank

Adam Butler, J.C. Jackson

When factoring age into the equation, Adam Butler and J.C. Jackson might just be New England’s two most valuable defensive pieces. Both former undrafted free agents, Butler has turned into a devastating interior pass-rusher for the Patriots, while Jackson has developed into a ball-hawking star in the secondary.

Adam Butler isn’t going to get Aaron Donald money, and New England should be able to make a deal work without hindering their ability to go out and sign unrestricted free agents. Jackson, meanwhile, is a restricted free agent, which gives the Patriots some additional leverage room in contract negotiations.

In a perfect world, the two sides would come to an agreement prior to the start of free agency. However, if both sides can’t come to terms, then New England can sign him to a one-year deal regardless. If a team wants to sign him, then they’d need to give the Patriots a first-round pick for the trouble. It’s hard to see another team handing out both a massive contract and a first-round pick for Jackson’s services, so he should be back in New England for at least the 2021 season.

Main photo:
Embed from Getty Images