The New England Patriots are officially on to 2020, which means it’s time to start looking at some free agent targets. As of this posting, the Patriots are currently projected to have approximately $42 million in available cap space at the start of the new league year. While a sizable portion of that money will go towards re-signing their own players, they should have enough left over to make a few big moves on the open market. Let’s take an early look at some projected free agents and see who is the best fit for New England.
New England Patriots Offensive 2020 Free Agent Targets
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders is the perfect fit for New England’s offense. Despite getting up there in age, the versatile wide receiver still has what it takes to win all over the field. New England’s current receivers are predominantly better in the slot, so Sanders’ ability to line up outside is a huge bonus for New England. Sanders is a great route runner, has a reliable set of hands, and can win at the point of attack on tight-window throws. He’s everything the Patriots need and should be their top target if he hits the open market.
Hunter Henry struggles to stay healthy, but he’s a true difference-maker when on the field. He might not be in the same class as Travis Kelce, but Henry has the size to beat safeties and the speed to beat linebackers. It’s hard for opposing defenses to match up with Henry, and he’s a dangerous threat after the catch. While his blocking isn’t quite as good as his pass-catching, he’s still able to hold his own in the trenches. After throwing to Ben Watson and Matt LaCosse for a full season, Tom Brady would be thrilled to have Hunter Henry lining up at tight end in 2020.
A.J. Green is the classic low-risk, high-reward move that Bill Belichick loves to make. The superstar wide receiver missed the 2019 season thanks to an offseason ankle injury and, entering his age-32 season, is no spring chicken. Green has only played a full 16-game season once in the past four years, so injury concerns will probably drive down his price tag.
However, he’s still one of the best in the league when he is on the field. Green can do literally everything a wide receiver needs to do, and he does it all at a high level. If he can stay healthy (big if), he should return to being one of the best receivers in football.
One of the biggest problems with New England’s offensive line is that they don’t have much depth at the tackle position. Marcus Cannon and Isaiah Wynn are both solid starters, but the Patriots don’t have a reliable swing tackle. Yodny Cajuste missed the entirety of his rookie season, so the Patriots should bring in some veteran insurance at tackle. LaAdrian Waddle spent four seasons in New England and always played at a serviceable level when on the field. Waddle is coming off a season-ending injury and the Patriots could probably close to the veteran minimum. If nothing else, he’s a proven commodity who can serve as swing tackle if Cajuste isn’t yet ready for the job.
This signing would only happen if the Patriots lose Joe Thuney and need a cheap alternative. Ereck Flowers couldn’t make it in the NFL as a tackle but actually had a decent season at guard. Starting all 16 games for the Washington Redskins, Flowers ended the year as the 30th-best guard in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. While Flowers represents a considerable drop off from Thuney, he’ll come at a fraction of the cost and can start if the Patriots are looking for a one-year starter to compete with Hjalte Froholdt.
If the Patriots can’t get a guy like Hunter Henry or Austin Hooper, they could easily turn to Tyler Eifert. Eifert is anything but the picture of health, but the former first-round pick managed to play all 16 games in 2019. While he may have lost a step since his memorable 2015 campaign, Eifert can still play at a solid level. The Patriots reportedly were close to acquiring him at the trade deadline, so we know there’s some interest between the two parties.
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