The Patriots are set to enter the free agency phase of the 2016 off-season and we’ll explore some of the biggest needs of the team moving forward. And some of the names of their own free agents as well as some of their potential targets.
Next up on the free agency positional list: Cornerbacks
Team Need: Medium
Returning players: Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Darryl Roberts (IR), Rashaan Melvin
Free Agents: Tarell Brown (IR), Justin Coleman (ERFA)
The Patriots entered 2015 with questions about their secondary especially the corner position having lost all three starters (Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner and Kyle Arrington) from the Super Bowl winning team in the off-season. Gloom and doom was the order of the day. Most thought the Patriots would be forced to win 38-35 shootouts and the secondary would revert to the earlier 2010’s when the secondary was the Achilles Heel. The position went from one of strength to one considered a weakness.
It didn’t turn out that way, Malcolm Butler parlayed his Super Bowl heroics into a very solid first season of starting, going from a player on a tryout basis, to their starting left corner. No one on the Patriots defense played more snaps than Butler in 2015. He’ll be the starting left corner again in 2016 and will be in-line for a big payday soon.
Logan Ryan rebounded well after a poor second season in 2014. He moved into the starting RCB slot and started 14 games. He was the #11 rated CB according to Pro Football Focus (PFF) in 2015. He too is in-line for a raise and like Butler will become a free agent in 2017.
Coleman is a restricted rights free agent and should return and played well as the slot corner. Roberts was a 7th Round Draft pick last year, and turned heads in training camp and started the first preseason game against Green Bay before injuring his wrist in that game and ending up on IR. A very physically gifted CB, Roberts will be a player to watch on Day 1 of training camp this year.
Brown flashed his potential in the first three games (2 starts), but never recovered from his foot injury in 2014 and ended up on IR.
What the Patriots would really like is an upgrade at the RCB position and move Ryan into the slot. Bill Belichick loves his veterans on the defense and would like to bring in a veteran presence and allow the others to compete and sort out the rest.
Roberts and Coleman will no doubt be bolstered by some names both during and after the NFL draft as they look to build depth. But there are some intriguing free agent options out there. Here are a few that could be nice fits for the Patriots defense.