Despite the Patriots current cap issues, salvation is coming. Some cap experts project Bill Belichick and company to have over $100 million in space free to spend next offseason. These projections are subject to change with extensions yet to come and potential affects from the coronavirus pandemic, but New England should have enough room to sign at least one marquee free agent, if not multiple, next March. Here are a few of the names the Patriots should look to target.
Assuming the Chargers don’t come to an extension with Allen or Bosa, they’ll only be able to use their franchise tag on one. That means either an elite pass rusher or wide receiver will be hitting the market and the Patriots could use either one. Bosa had quite the contract squabble with Los Angeles prior to his rookie season and that was rather low stakes compared to what he’s about to go into. His relationship with the team is already on shaky ground and any further deterioration this season could ultimately lead to an imminent departure.
If the Patriots miss out on one wideout named Allen, there’s another waiting for them. Allen Robinson is one of the most talented receivers in the league, but unfortunately the same can’t be said about his quarterbacks. Blake Bortles and Mitch Trubisky were both high picks, but failed to live up to their draft position. Unless Chicago revamps their passing offense, there’s no point in keeping Robinson. He’s not worth the money if they’re going to continue underutilizing him to this extent. Pairing Robinson with Jarrett Stidham could be just what both players need to reach their peaks.
Adding another Charger to the list, Hunter Henry appears likely to be available in 2021 as well. The Patriots did draft two tight ends in the 2020 NFL Draft, but that doesn’t mean Henry should be ruled out as an option. They’ll have a year to evaluate both players at the NFL level and decide whether or not they still need a better option at the position. Keene and Asiasi can serve as backups to Henry until one emerges as a real weapon in the passing game, and Henry’s injury history makes having talented backups all the more important. When healthy, Henry is one of the best tight ends in the NFL and the Patriots experience managing an injury-prone tight end in the recent past might be something that attracts both parties to each other.
Jones is having a hard time negotiating with the Chiefs and trade rumors are beginning to swirl around the Pro Bowl defensive tackle. If Kansas City doesn’t find any suitable offers, they may find their best option is to ride it out and keep Jones on the roster for another Super Bowl run. The Patriots would almost assuredly be interest in an interior presence of Jones’ caliber if he hits the market in 2021, something they’ve lacked since the days of Richard Seymour and Vince Wilfork each came to an end.
The Jaguars were supposedly trying hard to trade Ngakoue after franchise tagging him in March, but still haven’t found a landing spot. Leading up to the draft, it seemed a trade was inevitable, but there’s no significant progress towards a deal to be heard of as we approach June. Ngakoue could be headed for a hold out and perhaps even sitting out the entire 2020 NFL season before hitting free agency after his very public Twitter beef with the Jaguars co-owner. While that attitude may turn off some fans to the idea of bringing in the talented pass rusher, it’s important to remember that Ngakoue’s current issues will be solved once he’s paid and the Patriots have plenty of money to do so. Adding a player who’s been able to rack up at least 8 sacks in every season of his NFL career could be worth the headache, and the Patriots have shown they have no issue with bringing in talented troublemakers over the years.
Photo: (Ashlee Rezin Garcia – Chicago Sun Times)