New England Patriots: 2018 defensive free agency preview
By Luke O'Brien
21 – Malcolm Butler – Going
During the legal tampering period, Butler signed 5-year $61 million deal with Tennessee. There he joins Dion Lewis and Logan Ryan in the Patriots Minor League team. We could wax lyrical about the Super Bowl benching but in all honesty, this is neither the time nor the place. Butler has moved on, the Patriots have moved on and the search begins for Stephon Gilmore’s Cornerback partner.
24 – Stephon Gilmore – Staying
Stephon Gilmore had the epitome of a Jekyll and Hyde season in 2017. He started out slowly, very slowly. Then suddenly the switch was flicked, and the number one cornerback that the Patriots had hoped they signed came to the fore. He was probably the only defensive player that came out of the Super Bowl performance with any kind of grace. The number one corner is the future for the Patriots in the defensive backfield, and fans should be excited about him.
25 – Eric Rowe – Staying
At the moment, with Butler off the scene, Eric Rowe is the de-facto number two cornerback for the Patriots. His cap number is around $1m as he enters the last year of his rookie deal. Don’t be surprised if he gets a new contract this offseason on a team friendly deal. You shouldn’t expect him to be the number two Cornerback once the season starts either.
29 – Johnson Bademosi – Going
Bademosi has primarily been a special teamer since going undrafted and signed by the Browns in 2012. He managed to get a good run midseason when Stephon Gilmore was injured and gave a decent account of himself. The two things that Bademosi has against him is his age and that he is out of contract. Belichick might turn to a draftee this year instead.
31 – Jonathan Jones – Staying
After injuring his Achilles tendon in the playoffs, Jones is set for a long layoff. If the tendon is torn that could mean he could be out until around October, which will mean he will start the season on the PUP list. Jones has been a nice story so far for the Patriots. He started out as a special teamer, but has shown an ability to play well in the slot corner in recent times. He is under contract for around $600K this season and there is very little chance that he is allowed to leave the Patriots. Depending on his injury recovery, expect the 24-year old to be extended next offseason.
37 – Jordan Richards – Going
This one has a caveat attached to it. I believe Richards will be brought to camp and be allowed to compete for a roster spot. I think, however, he could be traded or cut at some point this offseason. Whilst he does offer good special teams ability he is a former second-round pick that simply hasn’t worked out.
His cap hit is a modest $1.2 million but he is entering the last year of his rookie deal and with core special teamers already on the team like; Bolden, Hollister, Grissom, Langi, Roberts, Jones, King, Bademosi, Ebner, Flowers and Slater, giving Richards a new deal just doesn’t really make sense.
41 – Cyrus Jones – Going
How do you solve a problem like Cyrus? A player lacking in confidence to the point where had he been a lower round draft pick he would no longer be on the roster. Jones has hardly endeared himself to the New England faithful either, often lashing out via social media. He has obvious talent as a returner when the ball is in his hands. The problem has been catching the ball in the first place. An underrated part of Cyrus’ story is that he has also been poor as a cornerback, which was the primary reason he was drafted. Even though he has two years left on his rookie deal, the Patriots might just cut their losses once he is declared fit to play after his injury.