Patriots free agents for the 2020 offseason
The New England Patriots season has officially come to an end.
A loss to the Tennessee Titans in the Wild Card round of the 2020 NFL playoff brought a disappointing season to a close. The Patriots offense never really got going during the season and their excellent defense faltered too often late in the season en route to an early playoff exit.
Now, the Patriots will shift their attention to the offseason. And it will be a critical one for the team. They have 20 players set to hit free agency and a number of important contributors set to be included among them.
The Patriots will also need to seek out upgrades for their stagnant offense. They should look at receivers and tight ends, in particular, to try to fix that. That could happen in free agency or the draft but either way, the Patriots are bound to make some changes in 2020.
But before they add new talent, they'll have to focus on keeping some of their homegrown talent. Here's a look at the free agents that the Patriots will have to make decisions on in the coming months.
QB Tom Brady
For the first time in his career, Tom Brady is going to be an unrestricted free agent. The Patriots aren't going to be able to put the franchise tag on him and Brady will be able to pick his next team no matter what. The 42-year-old dealt with an elbow injury and a mediocre receiving corps for most of the season and had a down year as a result. Still, a down-year for Brady is pretty good and he managed to complete 60.8 percent of his passes for 4,057 yards, 24 touchdowns, and eight interceptions during the regular season.
UPDATE (March 20): After announcing he's leaving the Patriots on social media, Brady has signed a two-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency.
WR Phillip Dorsett
Dorsett, a former first-round pick by the Indianapolis Colts in the 2015 NFL Draft, was traded to the Patriots in 2017 in exchange for Jacoby Brissett. He put forth a decent season with 29 catches for 397 yards and a career-high five touchdowns in the Patriots depleted receiving corps. However, he only played 27 total offensive snaps over the course of the Patriots final three regular season games, so the team may not want to bring him back as anything more than a backup if they bring him back at all.
UPDATE (March 24): Whoever quarterbacks the Patriots in 2021, the team's receiving corps will look different, with Dorsett heading to Seattle on a one-year deal.
WR/ST Matthew Slater
Slater is listed as a receiver on the Patriots roster, but he has almost exclusively served as a special teams ace for the squad since they drafted him in the fifth round of the 2008 NFL Draft. He has totaled 22 special teams tackles in the past two seasons and will turn 35 one week into the 2020 regular season. He is currently serving as New England's special teams captain.
UPDATE (March 13): Slater has agreed to a two-year contract with the Patriots.
TE Benjamin Watson
The Patriots lured Ben Watson out of retirement in hopes that the 39-year-old would be able to help fill the void they had at tight end after Rob Gronkowski's retirement. Watson, a former first-round pick by the Patriots in 2004, caught 17 passes for 173 yards in 10 regular season games. He also failed to catch a touchdown for the first time since his rookie season 15 years ago.
UPDATE (March 16): Watson won't be playing anywhere in 2020, as he announced his retirement on social media.
OT Marshall Newhouse
Newhouse was signed as emergency depth by the Patriots after Isaiah Wynn went down with a foot injury in the first week of the regular season. Newhouse started nine games for the Patriots and allowed six sacks and three penalties on the season.
LG Joe Thuney
Thuney has been an iron man for the Patriots starting every single one of the 64 regular season games he has been active for and playing at least 99 percent of the team's offensive snaps in four seasons. He was superb again for the Patriots in 2019, only allowing one sack and committing no penalties. He certainly is among the better guards in the league.
UPDATE (March 16): The Patriots have decided to place the franchise tag on Thuney.
C Ted Karras
Karras replaced David Andrews in the starting lineup after Andrews was placed on IR while dealing with blood clots in his lungs. Karras played 1,041 snaps at the center position and was solid for the team. For those wondering, he is the great-nephew of former Detroit Lions star-turned-actor Alex Karras and his father (also Ted) and uncle (Lou) also played in the NFL.
UPDATE (March 18): Karras is headed to the Miami Dolphins on a one-year, $4 million deal, despite the Patriots reportedly offering a longer contract.
DT Danny Shelton
Shelton re-signed with the Patriots late in the 2019 offseason and beat Mike Pennel for the starting nose tackle job for the Patriots. The former first-round pick of the Cleveland Browns went on to have his best season to date, logging career highs in tackles (62) and sacks (three).
UPDATE (March 18): Shelton is joining Matt Patricia's Detroit Lions on a two-year, $8 million contract, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.
DT Adam Butler (RFA)
Butler joined the Patriots as an undrafted free agent out of Vanderbilt and has developed into a solid rotational pass rusher. He has recorded 11 sacks in three seasons with the team including a career-best six in 2019. Butler is a restricted free agent so the Patriots will be able to tender him a contract if they're afraid of losing him in free agency.
UPDATE (March 16): The Patriots have used their second-round tender on Butler to keep him in New England, per ESPN's Mike Reiss.
LB Kyle Van Noy
Van Noy has been a key cog in the Patriots defense over the course of the past three seasons and his ability to make plays in the backfield came up huge for the squad this season. He logged a career-high 6.5 sacks, 14 quarterback hits, and three forced fumbles while functioning as one of the leaders of the linebacker corps. The 28-year-old was acquired by the Patriots in a midseason 2016 trade with the Detroit Lions and quickly emerged as a starter in New England.
UPDATE (March 16): Van Noy is signing a massive four-year, $51 million contract with the Miami Dolphins in free agency.
LB Jamie Collins
Returning to the Patriots after spending a couple of years with the Cleveland Browns was definitely a smart move by Jamie Collins. The return to New England has revitalized his career and early in the season, there was some buzz that he could be a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. He finished the regular season with seven sacks and three interceptions (both career highs) as well as 81 tackles and three forced fumbles. Collins, 30, was a second-round pick by the Patriots in the 2013 NFL Draft.
UPDATE (March 16): Matt Patricia is loading up on ex-Patriots, as Collins also is headed to Detroit on a three-year, $30 million deal.
LB/FB Elandon Roberts
Roberts has only played 20 percent of the snaps as a backup on defense this year but he has become an important role player in all facets for the team. To close the season, he operated as the team's fullback and helped to improve their performance on the ground. He did this while also playing well on special teams. Overall, Roberts has 18 tackles, a sack, and a 38-yard touchdown catch on the year. A pretty well-rounded resume ahead of the 25-year-old's first unrestricted free agency.
UPDATE (March 18): Roberts is headed to the Miami Dolphins to join Brian Flores.
S Devin McCourty
McCourty has long been a part of the Patriots secondary after being drafted as a cornerback in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Since then, McCourty has converted to safety and has been active at all levels of the field. He's a great tackler and this year, he logged five interceptions, his most since 2012 and more than his previous four seasons combined. McCourty, a defensive captain, will turn 33 ahead of the 2020 NFL season and has pondered retirement in the past. The Patriots also employ his twin brother, Jason McCourty.
UPDATE (March 24): McCourty is remaining with the Patriots on a two-year, $23 million deal, though he admitted he considered leaving as a free agent.
S/ST Nate Ebner
Ebner has been with the Patriots since being a sixth-round pick out of Ohio State in 2012. He has played in 111 career games as a member of the Patriots and has almost exclusively served as a special teams ace. He has 87 career tackles to date and also played with the USA's Rugby sevens team during the 2016 Summer Olympics.
UPDATE (March 19): Ebner is set to sign with the New York Giants, where he'll reunite with former Patriots special teams coach Joe Judge.
K Nick Folk
Nick Folk has done very well since stepping in for an injured Stephen Gostkowski midway through the 2019 season. He has gone 14-of-17 on field goal attempts while making all 12 of his extra points. Not bad for a guy who was out of the league for two years before the Patriots called upon him.