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Patriots Analysis

Top 30 Available Free Agents for New England to Target



Washington Commanders offensive tackle Charles Leno Jr. looks to block against the New England Patriots during an NFL football game at Gillette Stadium, Sunday Nov. 5, 2023 in Foxborough, Mass. (Winslow Townson/AP Images for Panini)

Many big signings in NFL free agency have already been made. There is still talent on the board, however. The New England Patriots still have money to spend and needs on their roster. There are several 2025 NFL free agents New England should be working on extensions for, but that shouldn’t prevent roster additions in Foxboro.

A look at the Top 25 available free agents who would be good fits for the New England Patriots. It should be noted that this list is specific to the Patritos, not a list of the top free agents still on the market. For a free agent to be a good fit it needs to make sense for both the player and the team. This includes positional fit and amount of contract, among other factors.

There is only one offensive lineman, one tight end, and no wide receivers on this list. If the player is not going to be an obvious upgrade there is no need to prioritize more depth at those positions. Looking to the trade market or NFL Draft to fill certain spots makes more sense from this perspective. A look at 30 available free agents New England should be kicking the tires on.

No. 1. – Kyle Dugger, S (Patriots)

New England has used the transition tag on Dugger, but he has yet to sign. He can still sign an offer sheet elsewhere. The Patriots can also rescind the transition tag offer. It makes sense for both sides to get this taken care of.

New England Patriots safety Kyle Dugger

New England Patriots safety Kyle Dugger (23) is seen during the first half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023, in Arlington, Texas. Dallas won 38-3. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

No. 2 – Charles Leno Jr., OT (Commanders)

Leno is the lone left tackle still on the market who would unquestionably take over the top spot on the New England Patriots depth chart. The starting left tackle for 2024 has been analyzed on this site, and Leno remains the best option.

No. 3 – Steven Nelson, CB (Texans)

The Patriots could use some additional depth at cornerback behind Christian Gonzalez. Nelson appeared in 17 games for the Texans last season, starting 16. He would slot in as a starting corner for New England as well. The financial ramifications of the deal is a potential holdup, depending on what kind of money Nelson is seeking.

No. 4 – Mike Danna, DE (Chiefs)

Defensive end is the most popular position on this list by far, and Danna is the first one listed. The 26-year-old has played all four years of his career in Kansas City, winning two Super Bowls. He started 20 games last season, including the postseason. His sacks totals have increased every season, up to 6.5 last year. For years other NFL teams poached championship players from New England. Danna is an opportunity for the Patriots to return the favor.

No. 5 – Yannick Ngakoue, DE (Bears)

Ngakoue enters his ninth season in the NFL but has yet to turn 29. He was a Pro Bowl selection for the Jaguars at age 21 with 12.0 sacks. He has turned into a journeyman the past few seasons, playing for the Vikings, Ravens, Raiders, Colts, and Bears over the past four seasons. But Ngakoue can still offer help in the pass rush, as his 19.5 sacks in 2021-2022 can attest. Would be a nice addition on a “make good” deal.

Nos. 6-7 – Veteran Safeties

Justin Simmons (Broncos), Julian Blackmon (Colts)

If the Patriots cannot sign Kyle Dugger, or view alternatives as better value given the safety market, Simmons and Blackmon would be the best options. Simmons is a Boston College alum who has been a key member of the Broncos defense for years. Blackmon is younger (25 vs. 30) and not as physical as Simmons. He would likely be looking for a longer deal given his age, but perhaps not at the annual value. Dugger coming back to New England should remain the top option, but there needs to be backup contingency plans in place.

No. 8 – Stephon Gilmore, CB (Cowboys)

It was recently reported that Gilmore would be open to a reunion with the New England Patriots, though this was deceiving. It was expressed that he was open to signing anywhere, including New England, though his first choice was to return to the Dallas Cowboys. Gilmore enjoyed great success with the Patriots, winning a Super Bowl and earning the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He would improve the secondary for sure, but with an estimated one-year $10 million price tag, it might not be the best use of resources.

New England Patriots' Stephon Gilmore (24) prepares to intercept the ball against Los Angeles Rams' Brandin Cooks (12) during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

New England Patriots’ Stephon Gilmore (24) prepares to intercept the ball against Los Angeles Rams’ Brandin Cooks (12) during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

No. 9 – Tre’Davious White, CB (Bills)

New England has had success signing cornerbacks from Buffalo in the past (see No. 8 on this list). White has been an outstanding corner for the Bills, but his 2023 was cut short due to injury after only four games. White will likely be looking for a one-year deal to prove his health and value to the league once more. Once again, it gives the Patriots a starter opposite Gonzalez who could easily outplay their deal in free agency.

Nos. 10-13 – Veteran Pass Rushers

Emmanuel Ogbah (Dolphins), Carl Lawson (Texans), Rasheem Green (Bears), Charles Harris (Lions)

Again, the New England Patriots pass rush needs to be addressed. Getting back a healthy Matthew Judon will certainly help, as will bringing back Josh Uche. But at defensive end the only players locked into roster spots are aging captain Deatrich Wise Jr. and 2023 rookie Keion White. Neither brought a consistent pass rush for New England in 2023. These four all can improve the defense’s depth, and ability to pressure opposing quarterbacks.

No. 14 – Ezekiel Elliott, RB (Patriots)

New England added Antonio Gibson in free agency. They return Rhamondre Stevenson and a group of potential backups as well. But Elliott was a player who played hard in 2023, something not seen out of many members of the offense consistently. Bringing him back for another season to join forces with Stevenson and Gipson should at least be under consideration.

New England Patriots RB Ezekiel Elliott

New England Patriots running back Ezekiel Elliott reacts after his 74-yard reception and run into the end zone was nullified by an offensive holding call during the first half of an NFL football game against the Las Vegas Raiders, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Nos. 15-18 – More Cornerback Help

Ahkello Witherspoon (Rams), Levi Wallace (Steelers), Adoree’ Jackson (Giants), Rock-Ya Sin (Ravens)

In addition to Nelson, Gilmore, and White, these four cornerbacks all can help the Patriots’ depth and corner. They have inconsistency in common, as all have had very solid seasons in the NFL and struggled at other times. Unlike the other three, these picks are more of a gamble, but would also come with a lower price tag.

Nos. 19-20 – Patriots Cornerbacks Returning

 J.C. Jackson (Patriots) Myles Bryant (Patriots)

If New England is looking for a cornerback they are more familiar with, there are still two players from the 2023 team on the open market. Jackson and Bryant would not cost big money but would bring needed depth to a team that they are familiar with, and vice versa. There might be more attractive options available in free agency, but if other options are out of their price range, these two should remain in the conversation.

New England Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson

New England Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson celebrates after an interception in the end zone during the second half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Nos. 21-23 – Running Backs With Upside

Cam Akers (Vikings), Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Chiefs), J.K. Dobbins (Ravens)

These three have all shown flashes at various points in their NFL careers. All were high draft picks who are still young enough to make noise in the NFL. For both Akers and Dobbins (as with White listed above) health is a major concern. Akers has already suffered multiple major injuries in his young career. Dobbins was sidelined just eight carries into his 2023 season. None are sure bets to succeed, but all are worth a look if they don’t bring back Elliott.

No. 24 – C.J. Uzomah, TE (Jets)

Uzomah could help fill the hole left by the departure of Pharaoh Brown in free agency. He was one of the top run-blockers in the NFL at his position in 2023. He also has experience playing for Alex Van Pelt, as he was a member of the Cincinnati Bengals when Val Pelt was the Cincinnati Bengals (2018-2019).

Nos. 25-26 – Alex Van Pelt Quarterbacks

P.J. Walker (Browns), Jeff Driskel (Browns)

The New England Patriots have shown an interest in bringing in coaches and players that offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt is familiar with. Walker and Driskel were both quarterbacks on the Cleveland Browns in 2023, working under Van Pelt and other members of the Patriots offensive coaching staff. Even if they bring in a rookie QB as expected, Bailey Zappe and Nathan Rourke are not guaranteed to make the Week 1 roster. Some veteran depth at quarterback should not be out of the question.

Nos. 27-30 – Defensive End Depth

James Smith-Williams (Commanders), Dawaune Smoot (Jaguars), Malik Herring (Chiefs), Joe Gaziano (Falcons)

This list featured many players to improve the team’s depth at defensive end. It ends with four more to consider. These players are not going to unseat anyone in the startng lineup but could be solid depth moves on the New England Patriots defensive front. Not ever transaction is going to make headlines.