Patriots: 3 former Pats New England can bring back this offseason
By Jerry Trotta
All eyes will be on the New England Patriots this offseason to see how they go about upgrading their roster after they stumbled to their worst regular season finish in two decades.
For the most part, fans agree that the team’s biggest needs lie at quarterback, wide receiver, defensive end, linebacker and tight end.
Projected to have the fourth-most cap space in the league ($68.6 million), the Patriots should be able to address most of those warts if they allocate their money responsibly.
If we’re being honest, that shouldn’t be a concern with ever-stingy de facto general manager Bill Belichick pulling the front office strings.
What should sound the alarms, however, is that the Patriots –given how far off they are from being considered a championship contender — could have trouble attracting some of the bigger names on the open market.
At least, compared to the relative ease with which they pulled ring-chasers during the peak years of their dynasty.
New England’s notorious culture, while still being carried out by the current roster and coaching staff, endured dire blows following the departures of Tom Brady and other veterans, so it probably wouldn’t hurt to bring back a few familiar faces this offseason. That’s obviously easier said than done, so let’s attempt to highlight some former players the Patriots should look to sign.
Here are three former Patriots that will be available to sign this offseason.
3. Mike Hilton
The Patriots could be in for an overhaul at cornerback if they end up trading Stephon Gilmore, and based on the current terms of his contract — which will pay him just $7 million next season — that sounds like a real possibility. This is not to mention that reliable veteran Jason McCourty, who will turn 34 before the start of 2021, is set to hit free agency, so his return is very much up in the air.
That would leave JC Jackson (assuming he’s re-signed) and Jonathan Jones as the Patriots’ only two experienced cornerbacks on the roster, giving them plenty of reason to potentially bring in a pair of reinforcements this offseason.
Though he never made it past the Patriots’ practice squad back in 2016, Mike Hilton comes to mind as a potential solution after a solid tenure with the Steelers. The former undrafted talent out of Mississippi might not garner recognition as one of the league’s lockdown cornerbacks, but he undoubtedly belongs in that conversation.
To shed some light on Hilton’s overlooked dominance, he’s logged a combined 73.0 coverage from Pro Football Focus over the last four seasons, capping out with an exceptional 81.6 mark as a rookie in 2016. The Patriots adding a corner is highly contingent on whether they trade Gilmore, but Hilton would be an outstanding rebound signing if they end up pulling the trigger.