This is a big week for the NFL, as it is the first week of free agency.
The legal tampering period is Monday and Tuesday before the official league year begins Wednesday at 4 p.m. when free agents can officially sign with new teams and trades agreed upon can become official.
Across the board, it’s a pretty underwhelming free agent group with not many big names expected to change teams. This likely means some players will be overpaid because of the lack of talent available. In turn, don’t expect the Patriots to do much until the second or third wave of signings begin and the prices drop.
Still, that doesn’t mean they won’t be busy this week. Here are five things the Patriots should look to get done.
1. Bring back Trey Flowers
This one will be easier said than done, as Flowers is the best defensive end on the market and one of the best defensive players, period. It seems likely the 26-year-old will get around $15-18 million per season, and that might be too much for the Patriots. Flowers will likely see what his market is before coming back to the Patriots with that figure, and letting them decide whether or not they can match or even come close. If Flowers is not brought back, they need to find a way to make up for his production because they need more than Michael Bennett.
2. Free up some cap space
A move was already made last week with the release of Dwayne Allen that freed up just under $7 million in cap space, but most of that will go to Bennett, so it’s essentially a wash. With around $17 million in cap space as of now, that needs to change and this week is a good place to start. Some obvious moves seem to be releasing Adrian Clayborn, as that will free up around $3 million, and then extending Tom Brady. In the last year of his deal, Brady currently has a cap hit of $27 million and by extending him the team could spread out that money over a few years.
3. Gauge wide receiver market, potentially add player
This is the position most needed to be upgraded as Julian Edelman is the only receiver who finished the 2018 season on the active roster under contract for 2019. As mentioned earlier, it isn’t a very strong class so the top receivers available — Golden Tate, Adam Humphries and Tyrell Williams — may get overpaid and in that case won’t be coming to New England. If that indeed happens, maybe the Patriots will look at making a trade similar to what they did a few years ago when they got Brandin Cooks. Whether a receiver is added this week or not, the Patriots need to make sure they have a plan at the position based off what the market is like.
4. Keep close eye on own free agents
This will probably be the most important part of the week, as there are a number of players who will hit free agency, but the team likely wants to bring back. Besides Flowers, top priorities include Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Phillip Dorsett, Jason McCourty and LaAdrian Waddle. The organization should constantly be checking in on these players and if it needs to match an offer from another team, it should likely do it. Meanwhile, with Trent Brown, Cordarrelle Patterson and Chris Hogan it feels like they will be gone, but if their markets don’t materialize and the team can get a bargain, why not look to bring them back?
5. Get better idea of what Rob Gronkowski is doing
While Gronkowski likely won’t come out and say whether he’s playing next year or not, the Patriots need to make sure they have some sense of what he's planning on doing. There’s a thought he hasn’t said anything because he’s planning on returning, but wants to play for his full $9 million in base salary. The Patriots likely want him to take a pay cut if he returns, but by not formally announcing anything he can use that as leverage if the team tries to make him take a pay cut by just saying he will retire if they do. If he is retiring, the team likely needs to add a veteran on top of drafting a tight end early.