According to Mike Reiss of ESPN, the Patriots recently settled compensation grievances with both Antonio Brown and Aaron Hernandez. The Patriots will receive $4 million from the Brown settlement and $2.55 million from the Hernandez settlement. Reiss reported the Patriots cap space now sits at $7.79 million. (UPDATE: With the flurry of recent player opt-outs for the 2020 season the Patriots now have around $24 million in cap space.)
Earlier in the offseason, we gave you three players the Patriots should consider signing. Now that the Patriots have additional cap space, the Patriots have the ability to pursue a wider range of players. With that being said, even with the extra cap space, it’s possible the Patriots save it for any in-season transactions. We lean towards the Patriots making a few moves before the start of the season. In this article, we’ll tell you who we think the Patriots should target.
EDGE Jadeveon Clowney
Jadeveon Clowney is the top remaining free agent and it isn’t even close. Clowney would immediately become the top edge defender on the roster. He’s more than just a great player though; Clowney is a great scheme fit. The Patriots want their edge defenders to set the edge and stop the run. Clowney is one of the best edge run defenders in the NFL. On top of his run-stopping skills, he’s also a solid pass rusher. The fit with a great defensive mind like Bill Belichick is one that would send shockwaves throughout the rest of the NFL.
A one year deal for Clowney with the opportunity to improve his stock for next offseason could be tempting. The Patriots have a good track record of getting guys paid. For example, just look at the Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins this offseason.
DT Damon “Snacks” Harrison
We talked previously about Damon “Snacks” Harrison and the Patriots fit here, so our reasoning will be brief. The Patriots could use another big body on the defensive line. The run defense was above average last season but it’s clearly the weak link on a great defense. Replacing Danny Shelton with Beau Allen isn’t enough when facing teams like the Ravens and Titans. Here’s a good look at what Harrison can do in the run game.
For whatever reason, Harrison had a falling out in Detroit and both agreed to part ways. We still think he has some good play left in the tank. Harrison has a track record as one of the top run-stopping nose tackles in the NFL and he fills a need for the Patriots. Harrison is our favorite free agent fit for the Patriots.
TE David Njoku (Trade)
We previously listed Delanie Walker as an option at tight end and while that could still be a fit, David Njoku fits even better. Njoku recently requested a trade from the Cleveland Browns.
The reality is the Patriots are very likely going to keep three tight ends. Two of those spots are locks with rookies Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene. When given the choice between Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo, or Njoku, we’d go with Njoku every time. According to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, the market for Njoku is a fourth or fifth-round pick. If we were the Patriots, we’d trade a fifth-rounder for Njoku in a heartbeat.
Njoku suffered from injuries last season and only played in four games. His best season came in 2018 when he caught 56 catches for 639 yards. Heading into his fourth season, we know what Njoku is a solid pass-catching option with good athleticism and some upside. but Njoki has a couple of flaws as well. He has struggled in the past with drops (six in 2018) and he’s just an average blocker. He may never be a superstar but he’s better than what they have now at the third tight end spot. Njoku is our favorite trade target.
OT Cordy Glenn
The Patriots starting offensive line took a hit when starting right tackle, Marcus Cannon opted out of the 2020 season. On top of that, starting left tackle, Isaiah Wynn is entering his third season in the league and while promising, he has been injured most of his career. Wynn has only played eight games in two seasons. The Patriots had to rely on Marshall Newhouse a big chunk of the 2019 season. Right now, the depth behind at tackle is very promising but inexperienced. Yodny Cajuste, entering his second season after missing his entire rookie season, and Korey Cunningham, entering his third season, are the likely backups on the depth chart.
Cordy Glenn would be a very nice veteran addition. While Glenn has spent most of his eight seasons at the left tackle spot, he’s skilled enough that the Patriots could use him as a backup swing tackle. In terms of strengths on the field, Glenn is better as a pass blocker but he’s still solid in the game. Here’s a clip from the week 12 Bengals vs. Steelers game in the 2019 season. Glenn (77) shows off his run blocking power by destroying Mark Barron (26).
Glenn played his best football in Buffalo, but he was solid the past two seasons in Cincinnati. He’s still got a couple more years of solid football left. The Patriots could look to bring him in for some veteran depth.
EDGE Everson Griffen
Everson Griffen is a great player. Griffen is coming off a pro bowl season in which he played some of his best football in his career, but he presents an interesting fit with the Patriots. Griffen has spent the majority of his career as a 4-3 defensive end with the Minnesota Vikings. In the past few seasons, the Patriots have shifted more and more to 3-4 personnel. With that being said, if the price is right, you bring Griffen in. He has been a productive pass rusher throughout the entirety of his career. Last season, Griffen had 8 sacks, 11 tackles for loss, and 24 quarterback hits.
If the Patriots were to bring Griffen in, we could see them moving him inside to avoid giving him coverage responsibilities. It’s not a perfect fit for Griffen’s playing style or the Patriots defense, but in the NFL, you can always use more productive pass rushers and that’s exactly what he is.
DT Mike Daniels
Just like Harrison, we previously talked about Mike Daniels and his fit with the Patriots so we won’t go into too much depth. Daniels can move around the line more than Harrison, however, his injury history gives pause for concern. With the Patriots, Daniels would likely play on the inside especially on passing downs. He could move to the edge to give the Patriots a bigger body on run downs. It’s hard to gauge how much Daniels has left in the tank due to his injuries the past two seasons, but here’s a look at what Daniels brings to the table when healthy.
Other Options we like for the Patriots
T LaAdrian Waddle: Is LaAdrian Waddle as good as Cordy Glenn? No, but Waddle has spent a few years in the New England system. With a shortened offseason, that experience may be the determining factor when deciding which veteran tackle to sign.
LB Nigel Bradham: Nigel Bradham had 61 combined tackles, 5 passes defended, and 1 interception in 12 games last season. He can play on all three downs, he’s pretty good in coverage and the Patriots could use some more linebacker depth.
WR Taylor Gabriel: There’s no guarantee Taylor Gabriel would make the final roster, but he could bring some more speed to the Patriots receiving core. His best season came in 2018 with the Chicago Bears; Gabriel had 67 catches for 688 yards.
Who would you like to see the Patriots target with their additional cap space?