Free agency can be overwhelming when you’re just a simple one-team blogger like me. There are just so many names, so many salaries, so many performances to take account of, that it’s hard to find great external fits.
And let’s face it, the Patriots don’t rely on early free agency for the core of their team.
Instead, they fill out the periphery, usually with depth players on short term deals like they did with Chris Hogan, Chris Long and Shea McClellin last season, or Jabaal Sheard in 2015. But really, they’re just as likely to find contributors during training camp or in season like Rob Ninkovich, Kyle Van Noy, Akeem Ayers, etc. as they are at this time of year.
Still, the Pats have a ton of cap space this season, and while the priorities remain signing their own players like Dont’a Hightower, Malcolm Butler and others first, the opportunity is definitely there in 2017 to make a splash in free agency and really improve the team.
Here are five players that I think are good fits and could be viable candidates to fill some of the holes the Patriots have.
- Calais Campbell — Campbell would be an upgrade on Alan Branch and that’s saying a lot. With the Patriots primarily running a two DT scheme, often featuring former defensive ends inside, Campbell is well-familiar with what the Patriots would ask of him. At age 30, perhaps Campbell would be willing to take slightly less money for a shot at a ring. He’s one of the premiere free agents on the market and this move would easily make the Patriots defense better. Probably a long shot, but this would be a “WOW” move.
- Dontari Poe/Brandon Williams – I’m putting these two together because they’re similar builds and were two of my favorite Patriots fits when they came out in the draft. Like Campbell, Poe or Williams could step right into the middle of the Patriots defense and make a formidable pairing with Malcom Brown. Poe is 27, Williams is 28, so both will be looking to cash in, but with the value Bill Belichick places on his defensive line, they could be a solid investment. We saw what Vince Wilfork did in this defense, Poe and Williams could have a similar effect.
- Latavius Murray – Murray is coming off a 12 touchdown season and has averaged 4.0 yards-per-attempt in both the last two seasons. At 6’3″, 225 pounds he has the perfect size for the Patriots’ power back, potentially replacing LeGarrette Blount and perfectly complimenting James White and Dion Lewis. Murray is just the kind of back I’ve been wanting the Pats to pick up and his hard-charging style would be a welcome addition.
- Eddie Lacy – Lacy played just five games last season and that could lower his stock just enough for the Patriots to pounce. The Patriots had good luck maximizing Blount’s game, primarily working with him on his pad level, and it’s a good bet they could do the same with Lacy, assuming he can keep his weight under control. Like Murray, Lacy is still young, and has considerably less wear and tear on his tires than Blount.
- Isaiah Crowell – Yes it’s all interior defensive linemen and running backs here, but those are two areas of need that also have a number of excellent options on the market. Crowell just turned 24 and while the Browns are trying to keep him, he’s just the kind of running back on a shitty team the Pats love to swoop in and rescue, ala Corey Dillon. Crowell doesn’t have the size of Murray or Lacy, but he runs hard and that counts for a lot.