Patriots’ Free Agent Predictions: Got to keep Hightower

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Patriots
New England Patriots

The happiness and joy has slowly faded after the miraculous comeback the Patriots pulled in the Super Bowl vs the Falcons but now the real work starts. The draft is just around the corner, free agency starts this week and throw in the trade market and this is sure to be a head-turning period for Patriots’ fans. With that said here are a few notes on some of the Patriots’ free agents and what could be behind some of their thinking.


AROUND COVER32

2017 Mock Draft: With the NFL Combine wrapping up last weekend, how might the draft play out

2017 NFL Draft:: cover32 exclusive interview with Conneticut safety prospect Obi Melifonwu

2017 Free Agency:: Player acquisitions and league tampering in today’s NFL

Patriots’ News: Tight ends a priority for Pats in free agency

Patriots’ News: Defensive Ends an area of focus in free agency

Patriots’ News: Got to pay big to keep Hightower?


* First is first, Logan Ryan is going to get a very handsome payday with a ton of guaranteed money, most likely at the level of a number one cornerback. Last season showed that when given the opportunity in the slot or against a bigger, more physical receiver, Ryan can handle himself quite well. However, if you think Ryan is a number one shutdown corner I have a bridge I can sell you. That being said it doesn’t mean he isn’t worth keeping. Ryan is an extremely solid tackler in the open field and willing to get dirty in the run game. He also is a great teammate, an extremely hard worker and has great ball skills.

Contract wise, the market for number one corners in average per year salaries is about $12-15 million per season with Josh Norman setting the bar at $15 million per season. With Ryan’s skills, he should come in at about $9-11 million per season with the potential for a little bit more depending on how much interests he garners. He also is likely to see significant guarantees the first two years, especially considering he doesn’t really ever get hurt. That being said if the Patriots can sign him for $7-8 million per year, then they should jump at it but after that range it is too significant to pay with Malcolm Butler due for an even bigger contract either this year if they choose to extend him or next year.

Prediction: Ryan leaves signing a 5-year deal worth $60 million with a $10 million signing bonus and $24 million guaranteed. * There have recently been rumblings by Charles Robinson of Yahoo that the Patriots are prepping to lose LeGarrette Blount and believe he will get an offer they won’t match. This news is somewhat surprising considering he hasn’t shown to be able to stay out of trouble when not playing for the Patriots and when you consider how many viable starting running backs come out of the draft and undrafted free agency nowadays.

I never fully believed that Blount would be back because I feel like the Patriots are ready to find another younger back that can provide a bit more value than Blount can but always thought there was a small chance if Blount was amenable to something of a low base salary with some incentives that could push the contract to $2-3 million, similar to last season. Blount has his moments but he has a lot of moments where he is indecisive and with cheap labor and talent in the draft, I doubt Blount is back.

Prediction: Blount signs for 3-year deal at $10 million with $4 million guaranteed

* Regarding the recent Brandin Cooks trade rumors, the Patriots would be wise to seek a younger number one receiver and as many outlets and reporters have stated Belichick openly gushed about Cooks during the week the Saints and Patriots practiced with each other. Throw this on top of the Patriots rumored attempts at swapping Collins at the deadline for DeAndre Hopkins as well as Cooks and it’s not hard to see the Patriots want a younger guy that lockdowns the number one role with Rob Gronkowski’s injury history and the age of their receivers (Amendola is 31, Edelman 30, Hogan 28).

Also stating the obvious, but their offense would be borderline unstoppable with a number one receiver paired with this grouping of targets and would take the pressure and beating off of Edelman. We’ll see what becomes of this situation but I don’t think we have heard the last of a Cooks’ trade, particularly with the Saints and head coach enamored with Jimmy Garoppolo. Think there could be a trade to be made with Jimmy G going to the Big Easy and Cooks realizing his potential under Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels and with Tom Brady.

Prediction: Patriots make a trade during draft for a number one receiver that hasn’t been linked to them in the rumor mill

Rapid Fire Free Agent Predictions:

* Patriots reset the linebacker market and sign Dont’a Hightower to a top of the line deal after he gives them a chance to match offer, beating Raiders’ offer.

* Patriots let Duron Harmon and Logan Ryan walk with the draft possessing so many high-level talents in the defensive backfield.

* Patriots resign Alan Branch to 3-year deal with third year non-guaranteed

* Martellus Bennett signs deal 5-year deal worth $9 million per year with Jaguars

* Patriots kick the tires on Calais Campbell, but settle for Jared Odrick due to him not counting towards compensatory formula

Stats and information used from: Spotrac.com, Nola.com, Patriots.com, ESPN.com

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