Most of the recent conversation surrounding the Patriots adding a top free agent has revolved around receiver DeAndre Hopkins. That increased as the news dropped Hopkins would be visiting the team and has continued since the meeting concluded last week.
Because adding a top-talent pass-catcher has seemed to be the most needed upgrade to the team's offense, signing Hopkins would be an ideal scenario.
But what about some other surprisingly available free agents right now?
The idea of former Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott has been discussed since his release last month. However, there has been no indication that Bill Belichick is interested in adding him to the roster.
It seems fair to conclude they're pretty set with who they have in the backfield in Rhamondre Stevenson, Pierre Strong Jr., Kevin Harri,s and J.J. Taylor, assuming they all make the tea. However, a spot may still be available for another tough running back after James Robinson was waived ten days ago.
That's where Dalvin Cook comes in.
The former long-time Minnesota Viking was cut earlier this month primarily to create more cap space after it had been rumored for weeks the team was looking to find a trade partner to move on from the four-time Pro Bowler.
Now that he's become a free agent, Cook can explore all options. Given his talent and consistency on the field throughout his six-year career, several teams will likely be interested in signing him ahead of the 2023 season.
Should the Patriots be one of them?
According to former NFL executive Michael Lombardi, New England would be an excellent fit for Cook's future, more so than Hopkins.
While appearing on the Pat McAfee Show on Friday, Lombardi discussed both scenarios, Hopkins and Cook signing with the Patriots, and shared why he feels Cook makes more sense overall.
"I actually believe Dalvin Cook would be a better fit than Hopkins for that. (Rhamondre) Stevenson is a great player. There’s no question, but without Stevenson, if he goes down, it’s Pierre Strong and Kevin Harris. They need another back back there and I think Cook is one of those really good change of pace, catch a screen, go a long way. I think he’ll make a huge difference for the Patriots offense with Stevenson."
Considering the current depth at the running back position, he makes a good point, and adding Cook would be a tremendous upgrade. The problem is the money that Cook seeks from his new team.
NFL Network's Tom Pelissero revealed on The Rich Eisen Show two weeks ago that Cook will not go anywhere for a $4-5 million salary. Because Cook and his camp believe he's still a top running back in the league, he's looking for a contract with a base salary of at least $10 million, if not more.
Before his release from Minnesota, he was set to have cap hits of $14-$15 million through the 2025 season, so it makes sense that he would want something similar or more if he can find it.
The Patriots could technically afford him at that price, but that would negate any chance of landing Hopkins unless they did some extreme contract revisions.
Pelissero also went into further detail about what he heard regarding Cook's desires, stating that he is open to a one-year deal or more; it just hinges on the price tag.
"My understanding is they're open to both a one-year deal and a multi-year deal. ...We'll kind of see how things fall if he doesn't like the offers that he's got up front here, but I do anticipate fully that he's going to be on a team before we get to the regular season. It's just a matter of finding that right fit and a team having to pay. When you've got multiple vendors, usually that means you're going to get some numbers."
So if the Patriots were to be interested, is Lombardi right about him being a great fit, especially a better fit than Hopkins?
It's an interesting question to contemplate during this down point of the offseason, even more so as we continue to wait out what Hopkins will eventually decide for his future.