Predicting the Patriots’ biggest free-agent decisions this off-season

Patriot

Keeping Jesse Jackson on seems like a no-brainer to the Patriots. Whether or not to maintain veteran mainstays like Don’a Hightower can be a more difficult question.

New England Patriots linebacker Donta Hightower may be facing the end of his career at Foxborough. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

With the playoffs over for the Patriots, the inevitability of tough off-season decisions is weighing heavily on a team that feels like it’s about to turn its guard.

New England head man Bill Belichick spent wildly last season remodeling his team in hopes of returning in the postseason in 2021. Although the team met that goal with a rookie quarterback to boot, the veteran-heavy squad lost four of their last five games and could not hang on to the Buffalo Bills coming into the wild-card round.

Now, the roster turnover after that loss could include some fan favorites who are among the most decorated players in the history of the franchise.

The Patriots currently have 19 players moving to free agency when the new league year begins on March 16, with 16 led by unrestricted free agency and three (Jacoby Meyers, Jacob Johnson and Gunner Olszewski) by team banned. Huh.

Here are some of the most important players the team will have to deal with before that date.

Jesse Jackson

One way or another, the newly minted second-team All-Pro and second-leading interceptor in football is going to get hefty paychecks for at least the 2022 season.

But as Pro Football Focus salary cap expert Brad Spielberger told Greeley Tribune.com, the Patriots probably won’t let Jackson access free agency. Spielberger suggests that Jackson may get the Joe Thuney/Logan Mankins treatment of previous years: hit him with the franchise tag and try to strike a deal during that time/if he finds someone else to replace him. Let him go

A long-term deal just isn’t out of the question here, of course. But the price tag could be higher if Jackson is looking for the kind of money that the top cornerbacks in the league are making. PFF’s four-year contract launch, totaling $72 million ($18 million per year, $56 million guaranteed) Will bump him above the ‘Trey’Davius ​​White’ of the Bills In terms of the highest paid NFL corners on average per year.

Jackson is younger than Stephen Gilmore, which at least makes it more likely that Jackson could see a deal than his late counterpart. Nevertheless, given the previously unreported situation and the way the team coaxed a solid season out of Jalen Mills’ recapture project, it is possible that Belichick refused to turn down funds to keep Jackson on the following season. .

But at $18 million a season, judging by everything they did for free agents last year? You can probably take it to the bank.

Devin McCourty

For free security, it’s not about the plays you make. It’s the dramas you stop that often matter more.

The Patriots allowed the fewest explosive pass plays (20+ yards) for the second league-wide. There could be a big reason why McCourty is where he should be. Plus, he locks things up in the deeper part of the field, allowing Adrian Phillips and Kyle Duggar to make plays across the field.

The New England elder in secondary didn’t even miss a game and regularly played every defensive snap at age 34 without noticing that he had lost a crucial move.

McCourty will be 35 this fall, but it looks like he has something left in the tank. The Patriots should try to bring him back, and PFF guesses Two-year deal for approximately $6 million per year (with a possibility after 2022) it can.

Still, you never know: He wasn’t a fan of the change in the 17-game season, and he has nothing left to prove on the field. There is no question of retirement.

donta hightower

Speaking of retirement, one has to wonder if Hightower might even seriously start thinking about it after this season.

There were moments when he sounded like an old coming thumper without thought to destroy blockers or burst through gaps with force. His knowledge of the game certainly hasn’t let him down at any rate, and he regularly helped create havoc because he knew what was coming before everyone else.

But Hightower just wasn’t quite as dynamic as it has been in years past, whether it was because of age, what it was missing last season, or some combination of all of them. He found himself a bit too rooted for the traditional off-ball linebacker role, which New England had previously positioned him in a more versatile role.

The Patriots Legend is unlike the younger, more lit linebackers seen in the NFL, and it seems that the team cannot field a team with two off-ball linebackers such as Hightower and Jahn Bentley who primarily block runs. Don’t do more.

Belichick should at least give Hightower a chance to stay. But the desire to be young in the post could convince New England to move on from the 32-year-old. If it does, it’s hard to think of him as playing someone else.

Trent Brown

This could be one of the more interesting under-the-radar decisions for the Patriots this season.

On one hand, Brown’s stability issues were certainly not what the team had in mind when they traded for him and renegotiated their deal ahead of the 2020 season. After being injured in the first series of the season against Miami, he did not play against the Cleveland Browns until Week 10.

When he played, however, he was everything the Patriots hoped he was getting. Brown showed that he could still fly out into space and crush people as Bruiser in a run game, and he only allowed one sack And a total of nine pressures in his 10 starts.

The interesting part too: Brown is still only 28 years old. If he can stay in decent shape, he should have plenty of juice left.

PFF Projects Could Earn Somewhere in the Browns’ Neighborhood Two-year, $12.5 million deal (Guaranteed $18 million) as an unrestricted free agent. That’s a deal compared to the fully guaranteed $10.4 million the Patriots would pay Isaiah Wynn after opting for a fifth-year left tackle.

There seems to be little downside to trying to re-sign a solid tackle in Brown, especially if they want to put Michael Onvenu inside guard rather than take him out to tackle Brown in place.

Jacoby Meyers

So how can you be a patriot? No Keep Meyers around?

All he has done is gets better every year, putting up a career-high 83 catches for 866 yards and his first two NFL touchdowns in 2022. He was one of the more prolific chain-movers in the league last season, scoring 19 of them. His catch resulted in a successful third-down conversion (10th in the NFL).

Even if you don’t think he’s a special talent in the receiver position or a true “no. 1,” he’s a solid player and almost certainly trusts pass-catcher Mack Jones the most. is done when he needs to go somewhere.

Meyers arrives this season as a restricted free agent, which means the Patriots could offer him a one-year tender for next year in exchange for a franchise tag or signing a long-term deal. The team did something similar with Jesse Jackson before last season.

As with Jackson, expect the Patriots to offer Meyers a second round tender instead of the original round tender. (Meyers was not drafted, so a basic-round tender would pay him less and could be matched by another team.) This would have paid Meyers more than $3 million the following season, while New England decides what to do with him at long last.

Given the current state of the team’s receiver room, the Patriots cannot let Meyers leave the building.

Nick Folk

If you had a top-5 list of the Patriots’ most reliable players this season, then Lok probably headlines that list.

The 37-year-old was sixth in field goal percentage among the league’s opening kickers and was perfect in 31 field goal attempts within 50 yards. This is about as automatic as it gets.

The Patriots especially needed him in a year that was defined by running football and trying to play things safe for their rookie quarterback. One could say that he was the team’s MVP in New England’s victories over snow-globe games in Houston, Los Angeles, and Buffalo.

New England has paid less than $2 million in each of his last three one-year contracts with the team. Although Belichick may not be able to skimp quite She In 2022, this is a solid indicator not to break the bank to bring back folk.

The bottom line is that the team still needs him until they have a better idea if big-footed Quinn Nordin can consistently kick it overhead during actual NFL action. Letting the folk test in the market the way the Patriots cut him off after training camp may not work this time.

Matthew Slater

Special teams GOAT did it again this past season, making it their fifth All-Pro team in 2021. Even at 36 years old, he hasn’t slowed down or provided the Patriots anything less than excellence and stability.

There doesn’t seem to be any reason he can’t keep it up for a year or two. With his 37th birthday looming before the start of next season, however, he may be ready to hang up the cleats soon.

The Patriots offered him a two-year, $5.3 million contract to face unrestricted free agency for the last time after the 2019 season. He achieved two second-team All-Pro nods in those two years, meaning he lived to his end.

So it makes sense for Belichick to leave that decision to Slater. If he wants to play, sign him on a one-year deal. If he’s ready to retire, try to put him first before letting him ride into the sunset. (Kidding. Mostly.) Leaving him without a contract offer is not an option, no matter what happens.

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