NFL free agency kicks off next week and we will plenty of coverage in the coming days. There has a lot of movement already, specifically with the quarterback market.
The Patriots obviously don’t need a quarterback but they have several other holes to fill. Bill Belichick will not be the big spender he was last off-season but he will kick the tires on some veterans in either free agency or the trade market.
Here ten players he could target in areas the Patriots need to improve.
1. Allen Robinson, WR, Bears: The Patriots have done extensive work on Robinson. While Robinson’s production really dipped last season, he can still be highly productive when healthy and he gets targets. Money aside, I don’t necessarily think he is a great scheme fit but the interest is there apparently so this is worth watching.
2. Russell Gage, WR, Falcons: Gage caught 66 passes for 770 yards and four touchdowns last season. He is a solid route runner who can get open versus zone and separate versus man. He is by no means a burner but he would be a good fit in the Patriots offense. The problem is, Gage will be a popular target for teams looking to add a starting caliber receiver.
3. Stephon Gilmore, CB, Panthers: Call me crazy but I don’t think a reunion is out of the realm of possibility. Gilmore played well in Carolina last season. He may not get the long term deal he is seeking. If that is the case, then the Patriots could be in play on a short term deal. You know Belichick doesn’t mind bringing former players back. Especially on defense.
4. Elandon Roberts, LB, Dolphins: Another reunion is possible with old friend Elandon Roberts. Belichick loved Roberts when he was here because he could play in all situations and he played special teams. Roberts played well for Miami last season but with a new staff, he is more than likely going to go to market. He could be an affordable option for the Patriots.
5. Ju-Ju Smith Schuster, WR, Steelers: Smith-Schuster only caught 15 passes last season as he once again battled injuries. When healthy, Smith-Schuster is a starting caliber receiver and he has been productive (97 catches 831 yards, 9 touchdowns in 2020). Smith-Schuster’s market was thin last off-season and I expect more of the same this spring. He will be looking for a prove it deal.
6. Jarred Davis, LB, Jets: If the Patriots opt not to re-sign J’Whaun Bentley, they could make a run at former Lions first rounder Jarrad Davis. Davis is a two down linebacker who is physical against the run and affects the pass as a blitzer. He hasn’t quite lived up the billing as a three down linebacker but he can be a productive fit in the Patriots defense playing two downs.
7. L.J Fort, LB, Ravens: Fort is more versatile than Roberts and Davis. He can play on the line or off the ball. The Ravens will make every attempt to re-sign him but Fort will have a market. While he is a good scheme fit for the Patriots, he might be too pricey.
8. Eric Fisher, OT, Colts: The former number one overall pick of the Chiefs was recently released by the Colts. While his days as a starting left tackle might be over, Fisher could be a suitable right tackle with swing tackle capability. The Patriots like length at right tackle and Fisher certainly fits the bill. His ability to also play left tackle will make him a viable option for New England.
9. Steven Nelson, CB, Eagles: Nelson has experience playing in the slot and outside. He has struggled at times in his career but he has also played well and proven to be versatile. Belichick likes alignment versatility at the cornerback position so Nelson could be an affordable veteran option for the Patriots in free agency.
10. Jaquiski Tartt, FS, 49ers: Tartt has had his ups and downs but he is a Belichick type player in that he is versatile. You know Belichick loves those versatile three level safeties. Tartt should have an active market but if the Patriots move on from Devin McCourty and Tartt is still available a week into free agency, don’t be surprised if they try to sign him to a similar deal to what they gave Adrian Phillips two years ago.
Others to watch
Braxton Berrios, WR, Jets
Duron Harmon, SS, Falcons
Dan Feeney, G, Jets
Desmond King, CB, Texans
Darryl Roberts, CB, Commanders