The Patriots have yet to sign any free agents who weren't their own, but they could be moving toward bringing in a helpful piece or two.
According to Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran, the team had free-agent visits scheduled with defensive end Adrian Clayborn and running back Jeremy Hill. ESPN was the first to report the visits.
At 6-foot-3, 280 pounds, Clayborn is a stouter end who could rush from the interior in passing situations. His versatility would seem to fit what the Patriots like, and he hails from Iowa, where former Belichick colleague Kirk Ferentz runs the show. Clayborn had 9.5 sacks in 2017, six of which came in a ridiculous performance against the Cowboys.
Should Clayborn make New England his next home, the picture on the edge for Bill Belichick's roster would come into clearer focus. After a season in which injuries ravaged that spot for the Patriots, they could be looking at a group in 2018 that includes Dont'a Hightower, Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise, Derek Rivers, Shea McClellin . . . and Clayborn . . . if he's interested.
Hill, meanwhile, would be an interesting addition in that he would seem to slot into a role that the team already has filled.
At 6-foot-1, 230 pounds, Hill was a between-the-tackles hammer for the Bengals the last four seasons. An ankle injury and subsequent surgery ended Hill's 2017 prematurely after just 37 carries and 116 yards in seven games.
Would Hill simply be some competition for Mike Gillislee, who looks like the No. 1 contender for the team's "big back" role next season? Or might the Patriots carry two bruisers in order to give themselves some insurance?
The Patriots seemed to make an effort in the 2017 season to become more unpredictable in the backfield. They went out and signed dual-threat free agent Rex Burkhead. They eventually made dual-threat dynamo Dion Lewis their lead back. That's not exactly Hill's style, though he can catch (21 receptions in 15 games in 2016). Burkhead, who re-signed with the Patriots on a three-year deal earlier this week, looks like the best bet to be the unpredictable option if he can stay healthy.
Hill is an intriguing blend of size and athleticism, though. He's just 25 years old, and the fact that he's coming off an injury-shortened season should make him a low-risk option if he and the Patriots can come to an agreement.