The Runner Sports

Patriots’ Free Agency Preview: Defense

After taking a look at the Patriots’ pending offensive free agents not too long ago, let’s take a gander at the defensive side, shall we?

Definitely Gone

Chris LongAs stated on his Instagram post, Chris Long is not long for New England. After signing what amounted to a one-year prove it deal that allowed the longtime veteran to make his first playoff appearance, Long wishes to find a team that will play him more regularly than the Pats did in 2016, where he played just 64.9% of the defensive snaps, and was used exclusively as a situational pass rusher in SB 51. He simply won’t find that in New England, and so he has chosen to move on from the Pats after helping them hoist their 5th Lombardi in his lone season here.

Barkevius Mingo – Traded to New England from Cleveland for a 5th-rounder in hopes that Belichick could potentially glean whatever made the Browns pick him at 6th overall back in the 2013 NFL Draft, he ended up mostly limited to special teams duty, not even playing on 5% of the Patriots’ defensive snaps this past season (4.5%). I find it hard to believe Mingo will be returning for another season out in Foxborough.

 

Likely Goners

Logan Ryan – Ryan has been a very solid, if somewhat inconsistent, CB2 for the Pats over the years, so I fully expect Belichick to make him an offer that would be considered fairly competitive. However, in a deep draft for CBs, an abundance of cap space in the NFL, and many teams willing to pay a premium on even just above average CBs nowadays like Ryan –particularly after seeing Ryan play quite impressively throughout the playoffs– I expect him to follow the money he has rightfully earned.

Duron Harmon – A part-time single-high free safety for New England, Harmon has continued to play well for the most part in that role for the Patriots. However, as long as McCourty is around, Harmon will never elevate to true starter status for the Pats, something plenty of other teams can offer the talented young safety. In a league bereft of talent at the free safety position, there will likely be quite the bidding war for his services, likely leaving him out of New England’s price range.

 

Wait and See

Alan Branch – Branch is coming off of a very solid season, so there is expected to be a market for his services. However, at 32 years old, Branch is no spring chicken, which will likely bring his market down, perhaps to where the Patriots could be able to retain him. There are a lot of factors in play here, though, and until we get an idea of what teams feel his value is out on the open market, this one is simply too tough to call either way.

Jabaal Sheard – A similar situation to Branch, contract wise, we just don’t know what his current market value is. Spotrac values Sheard at about $8.8 million a season, which would be well beyond what the Patriots would be willing to pay for him, but he is also coming off of a down season, which could limit his market. I definitely believe this could go either way.

 

Likely to Stay

Dont’a Hightower – There is a lot of finger wringing going on in New England after the Patriots did not franchise tag arguably their best defensive player, but I think it’s all over nothing. I fully expect Hightower to be a Patriot for years to come. He loves the culture in New England, he loves Bill Belichick and his teammates, and I’m sure he loves the consistent winning. While the Pats likely won’t be willing to make him the highest paid LB like some teams probably would, they will still give him a very competitive and fair offer for his services. I expect a Devin McCourty-esque contract negotiation where Hightower consistently reports back tot he Patriots his market value, and the Patriots attempt to match it, or come close, before Hightower ultimately re-signs.

Phong Ta

Phong Ta

Grew up in both Boston and Memphis

Love the NFL, mainly the Pats, but Titans are slowly coming up

Also part-time Fantasy Football Expert on the side
Phong Ta