The initial wave of free agency is in the books, but that won’t stop the New England Patriots from looking to improve their roster. The defending Super Bowl champions recently signed Austin Seferian-Jenkins and brought in Demaryius Thomas and T.J. Yeldon for workouts. It’s clear this team is still looking to improve, so let’s take a look around the league to see who else might be available.
Best New England Patriots Free Agent Fits
The New England Patriots currently have Isaiah Wynn and Marcus Cannon penciled in at offensive tackle but have no real backup plan should something happen to either player. Wynn, in particular, is a risk, as the 2018 first-round pick has yet to play a professional snap. When Tom Brady entering his age-42 season, the Patriots need to do everything possible to protect their superstar quarterback.
Enter Donald Penn. Penn had a rough 2018 season, playing just five games at right tackle before ending his season on the injured reserve. Oakland subsequently released the 35-year old to make room for former Patriot Trent Brown.
It’s easy to write off Penn’s underwhelming 2018 as a one-year fluke. For starters, the former undrafted free agent spent 2018 as a right tackle. Penn traditionally lined up on the left side, and not everyone can handle that transition. While Penn is at an age where injuries start to accumulate, the three-time Pro Bowler has been remarkably healthy throughout the majority of his career. Penn has played in 178 of a possible 192, including 174 of 176 prior to 2018.
The Patriots need a backup plan if Isaiah Wynn isn’t ready to start, and Donald Penn is looking for an opportunity to fight for a starting job. New England has a long history of grabbing cheap veterans with one or two years left in the tank, and Penn could be the next veteran of that mold to join New England.
Any Wide Receiver
Demaryius Thomas might be the biggest name left on the open market, but he’s far from the only talented player. Veteran receivers like Michael Crabtree and Jermaine Kearse are both capable of stepping in as receiver depth, even if their best days are behind them. Kearse was never all that good but still has the ability to win in the intermediate portions of the field. Crabtree, meanwhile, has clearly lost a step but is still a strong weapon in the red zone. His hands are as good as ever (that’s not necessarily a complement) and he still his the size to out-muscle most cornerbacks. Likewise, journeyman receiver Dontrelle Inman showed some potential with the Indianapolis Colts late in the season. He was a decent weapon in 2016 with the San Diego Chargers and could carve out a role as New England’s third wide receiver.
While he’s not technically a free agent, the Patriots could also pursue unrestricted free agent Rashard Higgins. Higgins is a dependable perimeter receiver capable of making plays all over the field. In addition to the contract, New England would also need to give up a fifth-round pick for his services. That said, Higgins is easily the best obtainable receiver on the market and would immediately start on New England’s offense.
The New England Patriots replaced Trey Flowers with Michael Bennett, but they’ve yet to find a replacement for Adrian Clayborn. While the team has some young depth in Deatrich Wise and Derek Rivers, New England could add a high-ceiling commodity by signing Tennessee Titans’ edge defender Derrick Morgan.
Morgan didn’t do much in 2018, ending the year with just 25 tackles and 0.5 sacks. However, the former first-round pick battled through shoulder and knee injuries all season long and clearly wasn’t himself. He powered through said injuries by playing in 13 games but dramatically damaged his market with his subpar play.
Morgan is actually a pretty productive player when healthy. During the 2016 and 2017 seasons, Morgan recorded a combined 16.5 sacks, 40 tackles, and 17 tackles-for-loss. He probably shouldn’t be a starter anymore, but Morgan can be a valuable rotational defender on a cheap, one-year deal.
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