New England Patriots Free Agency: What’s Next?
By Hal Bent
S Tyrann Mathieu, S Morgan Burnett, S Eric Reid and S Tyvon Branch
This is a strong crop of safeties in free agency and despite the value of the position in defensive schemes increasing, the payout to safeties has remained static. New England already has free safety Devin McCourty at a top-of-the-market deal (almost $12 million cap hit in 2018) and above-market deals for strong safety Patrick Chung ($3.8 million cap hit in 2018) and third safety Duron Harmon ($3.75 million cap hit in 2018).
Reid is intriguing as the young veteran was a first-round draft pick in San Francisco in 2013 and is a Swiss army knife in the secondary. He is versatile, can play in coverage, and is an excellent blitzer.
The same goes for Tyvon Branch. Branch is older (31-years old), but has been solid everywhere he has been in the NFL. From Oakland to Kansas City to Arizona, Branch is a tackling machine who is not afraid to stick his nose in to stop the run (which Bill Belichick loves from his safeties). Injury concerns–like with Reid–will likely keep Branch from cashing in early in free agency.
Burnett is versatile and started out in the league playing more of a free safety playing center field compared to the other three top free agents at the position. Green Bay moved him around the secondary lining him up from the back-end to the line of scrimmage. Signing Burnett would mean either the end of the Devin McCourty era or a significant pay cut for the veteran captain and dumping Harmon. Burnett is 29-years old and has had some durability concerns the past three seasons.
With three of their top 12 cap numbers at safety in 2018, it makes little sense for New England to delve into this market. Short of scooping up a veteran at a one-year veteran’s minimum deal (which is unlikely with this quartet), the Patriots are likely stick with their current trio and Jordan Richards.