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Patriots Analysis

NFL Free Agents Still on the Market for New England

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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)

The New England Patriots filled several needs through their 2024 NFL Draft selections. Their quarterback and wide receiver rooms are both full. Other positional groups seem unlikely to see additions, though nothing should be ruled out. Quality free agents remain on the open market. If New England wants to bolster their 2024 roster they have money to do so and players are available who could help.

A positional look at how the Patriots could still upgrade in free agency:

Quarterbacks (0)

After drafting Drake Maye and Joe Milton III, the New England Patriots have five quarterbacks under contract. This eliminates the need to add another veteran, whether or not they are sold on Bailey Zappe and Nathan Rourke. P.J. Walker was the one intriguing player remaining here due to his history with offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt.

Read More: Dan Kelley’s New England Patriots 2024 NFL Draft Report Card

Running Backs (4)

Cam Akers (Vikings), Rashaad Penny (Eagles), Joshua Kelley (Chargers), Latavious Murray (Bills)

This is a low-priority area. The Patriots sitting out the free agent running backs would not be surprising. New England has Rhamondre Stevenson and Antonio Gibson locked into roster spots. Kevin Harris, Jamychal Hasty, Ke’Shawn Vaughn, and UDFA Deshaun Fenwick will battle for a roster spot in camp. Whether the Patriots sign another running back, depends on how Eliot Wolf values the current options.

Wide Receivers (0)

The New England Patriots selected two wide receivers in the NFL Draft and now have a crowded wide receivers room. Rookies Ja’Lynn Polk & Javon Baker join Kendrick Bourne, DeMario Douglas, KJ Osborn, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Tyquan Thornton, Jalen Reagor, Kayshon Boutte, T.J. Luther, and Kawaan Baker. If the team adds to this unit it would be in the form of a true WR1 via trade.

Tight End (0)

New England entered the offseason having zero tight ends with NFL experience. They have since re-signed Hunter Henry and added veterans Austin Hooper and Mitchell Wilcox. With rookie Jaheim Bell and returnee La’Michael Pettway also in the mix, the depth looks solid for this group.

Offensive Lineman (1)

Charles Leno Jr. (Commanders)

The Patriots drafted Layden Robinson and Caeden Wallace. Even after waiving Conor McDermott, there is a lot of quantity here. If the team were to make further additions, it would have to be for a player expected to start immediately. As of now, Chukmura Okorafor is the favorite to start at left tackle. Leno is the only option on the open market that presents an obvious upgrade, at least on paper. Otherwise, New England is better off letting this group battle in camp for roster spots and playing time.

Edge Defenders (7)

Tier 1: Yannick Ngakoue (Bears), Emmanuel Ogbah (Dolphins), Carl Lawson. (Jets),  Rasheem Green (Bears), Charles Harris (Lions)

Tier 2: Dawuane Smoot (Jaguars), Joe Gaziano (Falcons)

The Patriots opted to ignore their edge position in the draft. That unit has gotten some reinforcements post-draft, as they signed Oshane Ximines. But there are still depth issues for New England here, whether at defensive end or outside linebacker. This list is broken down into two tiers. The top five would be expected to play a regular role in New England and boost the pass rush. The second tier would add positional depth and fight for a roster spot in New England. All are worth considering.

Defensive Tackles (1)

Calais Campbell (Falcons)

This is not a position of need for New England. But the team has stressed a desire to have quality people in the building and Campbell is one of the best. Whether more defensive line depth is needed on a team with Christian Barmore, Davon Godchaux, Armon Watts, Daniel Ekuale, Sam Roberts, and Trysten Hill is questionable. However, an exception could be made for Campbell, though it appears an unlikely match.

Linebackers (1)

Shaquille Leonard (Eagles)

New England looks set at linebacker, but an exception can be made for Leonard. He earned first-team All-Pro honors with 122 tackles and eight forced fumbles two years ago. If his price tag is low enough, it would be a low-risk, high-reward signing to add depth behind Ja’Whaun Bentley and Jahlani Tavai.

Cornerbacks (6)

Tier 1: Xavien Howard (Dolphins), Steven Nelson (Texans), Stephon Gilmore (Cowboys)

Tier 2: Ahkello Witherspoon (Rams), Adoree’ Jackson (Giants), J.C. Jackson (Patriots)

The difference between tiers is players who would be expected to start alongside Christian Gonzalez vs. players who provide depth, with starting potential. Cornerback Marcellas Dial Jr. (Round 6) was New England’s only defensive selection in the NFL Draft. There is room to add another cornerback to the roster despite the Patriots having 10 (including UDFA Kaleb Ford-Dement) under contract. If New England signs somebody here, it should be somebody they believe will contribute.

Read More: New England Patriots Sign 10 Undrafted Free Agents

Safety (1)

Justin Simmons (Broncos)

Safety joins offensive line, defensive line, and linebacker as positions where there is no need to add another player, but the right player would be welcomed. At safety, that player is Justin Simmons. New England returns starters Kyle Dugger and Jabrill Peppers. They brought back Marte Mapu and Joshuah Bledsoe, while signing free agent Jaylinn Hawkins. So it is not a position of need, but Simmons, who played collegiately for Boston College, would be a welcomed homecoming at the right price.

While locking up more of their 2025 free agents remains the top priority for the New England Patriots roster plans, adding a few of these 21 available free agents would help bolster their roster for 2024.

Award-winning blogger, Dan's work has also been featured on Fox Sports, Boston Metro, Barstool Sports, MLB.com, and many other outlets.

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