In the past week, the New England Patriots were able to add Pro Bowl cornerback Stephon Gilmore, speedy receiver Brandin Cooks, tight end Dwayne Allen, versatile running back Rex Burkhead, as well as defensive lineman Lawrence Guy and Kony Ealy. The Patriots were also able to retain defensive tackle Alan Branch, safety Duron Harmon, and the anchor of the Patriots defense, linebacker Dont'a Hightower. As currently constituted, the New England Patriots are far and away the best team in the NFL. They have added to what was already one of the best offenses in all of football and have started to address a defense that many suspected were not good enough to win a Super Bowl.
Unfortunately, the Patriots were not able to re-sign all of their guys from the 2016 Super Bowl Championship squad. Logan Ryan, the second cornerback opposite of Malcolm Butler, was able to cash out on a big deal with the Tennessee Titans for three years, $30 million. We all ragged on Ryan during his time here, but he was able to play a tough brand of football and was a sure-tackler at the position. Depending on what the Patriots do in the secondary, fans may miss the Rutgers product. The Patriots also lost Martellus Bennett to the Green Bay Packers on a three-year, $21 million deal. Truthfully, I thought he was going to get a lot more money. However, I understand why Belichick did not try to retain the player. Dwayne Allen will be a damn good replacement for Bennett and there should not be that much of a drop off. Finally, the Patriots lost Jabaal Sheard and Barkevious Mingo to the Indianapolis Colts. While Sheard provided flashes of brilliances, he had a large drop off this season and was on his way out after he was benched.
Here are the remaining players on the free agent market that played for New England last season.
LeGarrette Blount: It has been so up and down with Blount it would not surprise me either way. He may chase the money and leave if a team looks at his touchdown totals and overpays, but he loves New England and could take a cheaper deal to win another Super Bowl. The Patriots need a bruising type of running back, and Blount provides just that. If the Patriots cannot retain Blount, look for them to add another running back in free agency or perhaps in the draft.
Brandon Bolden: This one comes as a bit of a surprise to me. Bolden is a quintessential Patriot, playing special teams and a number of positions on offense. However, Bolden fumbled in some key spots last season and I don't think he ever regained the complete confidence of Bill Belichick. Bolden could still return, but I believe the Patriots signed Rex Burkhead to be his replacement.
Michael Floyd: Ah, another troubled player comes to the Patriots to try and resurrect his career. This time, however, it didn't work. Floyd had flashes of brilliance, like when he laid out a Dolphin receiver in Week 17, but he never became an intricate part of the offense in New England. Correct me if I am wrong, but I think Floyd is currently in jail, so he may not even be able to sign a contract until he gets out. Because Floyd was not able to light it up on the field, he is not going to get that massive contract he was seeking. For that reason, I think the Patriots may re-sign Floyd on a very cheap one-year deal, especially if Danny Amendola fails to restructure his contract and is released.
Chris Long: Long already said he is not coming back to New England because he wants a larger role with another team. To me, this is bananas. He came to the Patriots to win a Super Bowl and I thought he found a good spot. Nonetheless, the Patriots won't be missing much when it comes to losing Chris Long. He may have played the most defensive end snaps for the Patriots, but Trey Flowers is ready to have a breakout year. The Patriots will need to bring in a couple warm bodies to fill the depth chart, which I believe they have already done when acquiring Lawrence Guy and Kony Ealy, who can both play inside and out on the defensive line.
Greg Scruggs: Who? Scruggs was originally drafted by the Seattle Seahawks as a defensive lineman but has since transitioned into becoming a tight end. This may be the third tight end the Patriots are looking for behind Gronk and Allen, but I doubt it.
Malcolm Butler (RFA): As we speak, Butler is currently on a visit in New Orleans with Sean Payton and the Saints. Payton himself announced in the beginning of the week Butler would be visiting the facilities, and it was later announced that the two sides were already trying to work out a deal. Speculation is running rampant, but the Patriots, according to Miguel at Patscap, have over $27 million in cap space. If the Patriots want to extend Butler, they can. The Patriots have all the leverage in this situation, but I would still love to see the player stay in New England.