Patriots Pulse Blog: Gauging the Future of the Patriots Key Unrestricted Free Agents

The Patriots have several key free agents this off-season that they have to make decisions on. Here is a list of their most notable free agents and whether or not they should re-sign them.

Malcolm Butler, CB: Butler is done in New England after being benched in the Super Bowl. It would be best for both sides if he moved on. Butler struggled mightily last season and some of it had to do with the fact that the Patriots opted to sign Stephon Gilmore instead of re-signing him to a long term extension. Butler never got over that and it effected his performance on the field. A fresh start would do Butler some good moving forward.

Dion Lewis, RB: Lewis had a terrific season as the lead running back for the Patriots, rushing for 896 yards and 6 touchdowns. Lewis will garner interest in the open market because he is a three down back who can return kicks. The Patriots may have to get into a bidding war to keep him. I don’t see that happening. The Patriots have committed to James White and Mike Gillislee (whom they may cut) long term. I don’t see them making that commitment to Lewis unless they cut Gillislee.

Danny Amendola, WR: The Patriots should make every effort to re-sign Amendola. He has been clutch in the playoffs and has been a loyal soldier taking multiple pay cuts through the years. Amendola loves the area and wants to be here. I don’t see how the two sides can’t make it work.

Nate Solder, OT: Solder’s tenure with the Patriots is up in the air. Solder’s son has battled health issues and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Solder opted to retire to focus on his family. Solder will have a market because he has consistently played well. It will be interesting to see if the Patriots are willing to get into a bidding war for his services.

Rex Burkhead, RB: Burkhead had his moments. He started playing better in the season half of the season and became a valuable asset in the red zone both as a runner and receiver. The Patriots would be interested in bringing him back but that will largely depend on what they do with Dion Lewis and Mike Gillislee. I don’t see a scenario where the Patriots offer Burkhead a $3 million dollar contract again.

Matthew Slater, WR: Slater will be back. He is still an elite level special teams performer and is comfortable with strictly being a special teamer. He doesn’t want a bigger role so he won’t go chasing the playing time and the money elsewhere.

James Harrison, OLB: I would love to see the Patriots retain Harrison. he played well down the stretch and despite being 39 years old, is in great physical shape. He is the perfect situational pass rusher/short yardage edge player. The Patriots would have first dibs and their won’t be as much of a market for Harrison as there is for some of the Patriots other unrestricted free agents.

Cam Fleming, OT: Fleming has been a swing tackle for the Patriots and while he has been a valuable bench piece, he has struggled at times and is nothing more than a back up. The Patriots like his versatility but they won’t be willing to over pay for it.

Marquis Flowers, OLB: Flowers has the potential to play special teams and in some sub packages. He played a little more than the Patriots anticipated this season and they like his versatility. Flowers may be back st an affordable price.

Brandon Bolden, RB: The Patriots surprisingly brought Bolden back last season but I wouldn’t be surprised if they moved on from him this off-season. While he is a valuable special teams contributor, Bolden takes up a roster spot that can be used on another position. I know Belichick likes his core special teams players but it would hard to justify bringing back Bolden.

The Patriots have roughly $13 million dollars in cap space. That is not a lot to work with. Bill Belichick will have to get creative with the team’s finances but he is also going to have to make some difficult decisions, particularly in regards to some of the players on this list. The Patriots will go young in some areas in an effort to save money. I know Patriots fans don’t want to hear that but that is the reality of the situation.