Patriots: Power ranking likelihood in-house free agents return to New England
By Mike Luciano
The New England Patriots went for broke this offseason, agreeing to contracts with several big-name free agents, including Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, and Matt Judon. The main goal was to erase the stench of a 7-9 season that left the Patriots outside of the postseason for the first time in over a decade.
As always, with that number of new additions, there will be plenty of turnover that ensures standouts from the 2020 team, however few they may number, will not be back in Patriots colors next season.
Given the signing of Judon at pass rusher, the addition of Jalen Mills in the secondary, and the decision to bring Cam Newton back as the starting quarterback, several starters from last year will have a tough time coming back to the Patriots.
This includes cornerback Jason McCourty, a starter last year who could choose to sign with the New York Giants instead of New England. How many current Pats free agents will end up leaving?
Patriots free agents that are coming back.
CB JC Jackson
Jackson is still a restricted free agent, but his exceptional play might not be enough for rival teams to fulfill the second-round tender placed on him. With or without a Stephon Gilmore trade, Jackson will be a vital part of the secondary for years to come.
OT Jermaine Eluemunor
Eluemunor might not have a starting role after the acquisition of Trent Brown, but the versatile swing tackle might be kept around alongside Justin Herron as a backup. Given how Wynn and Brown both have had issues staying healthy, maintaining more depth in the form of a veteran like Eluemunor will be crucial.
Patriots free agents that are leaving.
CB Jason McCourty
McCourty, who reunited with his twin brother in the New England secondary for the last three years, appears to be on his way out of town, especially after the Mills signing. McCourty was an excellent outside corner for New England, but he’s not a fool. He can read the writing on the wall.
LB Shilique Calhoun
Calhoun, an underperforming draft pick out of Michigan State, has been falling down the depth chart, as the Judon signing, expected progression of Chase Winovich, and re-signing of Kyle Van Noy are all obstacles in the way of his potential return.
QB Brian Hoyer
Newton is the starter, Stidham is the backup, and the potential that New England ends up drafting a quarterback is still a very real possibility. Not only will the Patriots have a tough time trying to find a spot for Hoyer, but his options around the league might remain pretty scarce. Is this the end of his NFL career?
Patriots free agents that are a coin flip.
RB Rex Burkhead
Burkhead is coming off of an ACL injury, meaning that it might be a while until he signs an NFL contract. Even with Sony Michel and the emergence of Damien Harris, Burkhead clearly is valued by New England. There’s no better place for the former Nebraska star to work his way back from this injury, but we don’t know if the Pats will make it happen.
DE John Simon
Simon is one of the more underrated 4-3 defensive ends in the league, even if he might have a hard time re-signing due to the arrival of Judon. Returning as a rotational rusher might intrigue him, but he could just as easily decide to sign a more lucrative deal elsewhere.
WR Damiere Byrd
Byrd returning likely depends on how the Patriots want to attack the wide receiver position in the draft. If they choose to add a speedster on the outside, Byrd is as good as gone. If Belichick neglects that position, they could try to bring him back on a cheap, short-term deal.
C James Ferentz
Ferentz might be the third center on the depth chart now that David Andrews and Ted Karras have both re-signed, but the Patriots have some connections with the Ferentz family. With a little nepotism here and a possible switch to guard in his future, Ferentz could return for yet another season in Patriots colors.
What are your thoughts, Patriots fans?