Looking at the New England Patriots 2017 free agents – UFAs

Miguel Benzan
January 19, 2017 at 6:19 am ET

The New England Patriots as well as the rest of the NFL will have several free agents set to hit the market in March. Free agency will begin at 4PM, March 9th. Teams can start to release players sometime in February 8th. Released veterans can then be immediately signed by another team while players with less than 4 accrued seasons go through the waiver season.

Some basic definitions –

Accrued Season
The number of accrued seasons determines the free agency status for the player. To gain an accrued season the player must be at full pay status for a minimum of 6 regular season games. They player does not gain an accrued season if the player is on Reserve PUP, Commissioner’s Exempt List, or a team’s practice squad. Games on IR do count in the accrued season calculation.

Exclusive Rights Free Agent – ERFA
A player with 2 or less accrued seasons at the completion of their contract.

Restricted Free Agent
A player with 3 or less accrued seasons at the completion of their contract. The team can choose one of three right of refusal tenders on the player. A first round tender, second round tender, or original draft position tender. Each tender has an assigned contract value amount. Another team can attempt to sign the player to a new contract, but the original team has the right to match it. If the original team does not match they will receive draft value equaling the original tender. If a team places a 1st round tender on a RFA and another team signs that player to a tender offer and the player’s old team does not match the player’s old team will get the new team’s 2017 first round pick. If a team places a 2nd round tender on a RFA and another team signs that player to a tender offer and the player’s old team does not match the player’s old team will get the new team’s 2017 second round pick. If a team places a low round tender on a RFA and another team signs that player to a tender offer and the player’s old team does not match the player’s old team will get the new team’s draft selection at the player’s original draft round. The player’s old team will not receive any draft picks if the player was undrafted.

The minimum increase in RFA tenders is 5% while the maximum increase is 10%. If the increase in the League Cap is between 5% and 10% then the increase in the RFA tenders will equal that increase. Last year’s low RFA tender was $1.671 million. So the range for the low RFA tender in 2017 will be between $1.755 and $1.838 million. Last year’s second-round RFA tender was $2.553 million. So the range for the 2nd round RFA tender in 2017 will be between $2.681 and $2.808 million. Last year’s first-round RFA tender was $3.635 million. So the range for the 1st round RFA tender in 2017 will be between $3.817 and $3.999 million.RFAs can negotiate with other teams starting at the beginning of the League Year. The RFA tender is not guaranteed so the player can then be waived without any dead money. The deadline to sign RFAs to offer sheets is 4PM April 21st, a Friday.

Unrestricted Free Agent
A player with 4 or more accrued seasons at the completion of their contract. Unrestricted free agents are free to sign with any team as soon as they become a free agent. Unrestricted free agents become part of the 2018 compensatory picks calculation.

This look at the 2017 Patriots free agency will examine the Patriots UFAs. I had earlier looked at the ERFAs. I also looked at the RFAs The below graphic lists the 13 Patriots players who are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents (UFAs) at the start of the 2017 League Year.

UFAs

TE Greg Scruggs Greg Scruggs was signed to the Patriots roster on October 1st. Was inactive for two games before being placed on Injured Reserve on October 15th. If re-signed will probably be for a one-year deal that qualifies for the Minimum Salary Benefit treatment so that his 2017 cap number would be at its maximum $695,000.

LB Barkevious Mingo If re-signed will probably be for a one-year deal that qualifies for the Minimum Salary Benefit treatment so that his 2017 cap number would be at its maximum $695,000.

FB James Develin Expect him to be extended by the Patriots before the start of free agency. I expect the deal to be similar to the extension that Brandon Bolden signed in January, 2015. Brandon Bolden’s two-year, $2.32 million deal included a $300,000 signing bonus. Let’s bump up James Develin to $2.5M.

Proposing a James Develin

RB LeGarrette Blount The bad news for LeGarrette Blount is that he will soon turn 30 after his stellar 2016 season. Running backs tend to decline after reaching the age of 30. So I am doubtful that he will see a big payday in 2017. If Blount does come back to the Patriots expect that the maximum value of his one-year deal will be $2 million. Please note that it appears that a healthy Dion Lewis now appears to be the featured back in the Patriots 3-headed running back attack.

WR Michael Floyd Do not expect that Floyd will be signed to a deal until his legal issues are resolved. When those issues are indeed resolved it should be rather easy for the Patriots and Floyd to reach an incentive-laden deal since his 2016 stats (37 catches,  5 TDs, and 488 yards) were pedestrian.

RB Brandon Bolden If Bolden does come back to the Patriots expect the deal to be in the 1 to 1.2 million range. Bolden who played the 5th most special teams snaps on the Patriots may be an attractive free agent target for teams looking to improve their special teams.

S Duron Harmon Duron Harmon played in 48.6% of the defensive snaps and 27.7% of the special teams snaps. Harmon is the clear #3 safety on the Patriots. If another team feels that he can be a starter, expect him to leave the Patriots in free agency. Also, since Patrick Chung is due $5.9 million in cash for the 2017 and 2018 season if Harmon is looking for more money than that he will have to go to another team to do so.

CB Logan Ryan Expect Logan Ryan to leave the Patriots the first day in free agency. Logan Ryan’s resume is typical of those cornerbacks who do well in free agency so I expect him to receive offers for more money than his future value to the Patriots.

Logan Ryan’s selling points.
* Youth – Only 26 years old Logan Ryan will be one of the youngest cornerbacks hitting free agency
* Stats – Ryan has averaged over 4 interceptions, 10.5 Defended passes, and one forced fumble a season
* Durability – Ryan has not missed a regular season game since being drafted in 2013
* Winner – Teams like to sign players from winning teams.

If the Patriot decide to place the franchise tag on Logan Ryan, it will cost $14.297 million if the League Cap is $168 million. The cornerback tag cost is about 8.5% of the League Cap.

DT Alan Branch and DE Chris Long Am going to group the two together since I believe that same things will apply to both. If the Patriots do win the Super Bowl as I expect, would not surprise me if both players decide to retire leaving the game on top. If they do decide to play in 2017 consider the Patriots the heavy favorites to be the team that signs them. Would expect any deals to mirror current deals. Branch’s 2016 cap number was 2.75 million. Chris Long’s 2016 cap number was 2.5 million.

TE Martellus Bennett –  During the 2016 season blogged about an possible extension with Bennett. Since he is now closer to free agency I expect that his asking price has come up since the time I published the blog. Since Rob Gronkowski’s deal with the Patriots has a 9M APY value that is probably the maximum value for any Bennett with the Patriots. As the best available free agent tight end on the market Bennett may be able to surpass Gronk’s 9M APY. Please note that the franchise tag for a tight end is around 5.89% of the cap so if the 2017 League Cap is 168 million then the 2017 tight end franchise tag will then be $9,895,000.

DE Jabaal Sheard Trey Flowers’ emergence has made it unlikely that Sheard returns to the Patriots.

LB Dont’a Hightower –  During the 2016 season blogged about an possible extension with Hightower that did include a couple of deals that start in 2017. Please note that the franchise tag for a linebacker is around 8.75% of the cap so if the 2017 League Cap is 168 million then the 2017 linebacker franchise tag will then be $14,750,000.

Summarizing my Predictions:
Greg Scruggs – Re-signed
Mingo – Re-signed
James Develin – Re-signed
LeGarrette Blount – Signs elsewhere
Brandon Bolden – Re-signed
Michael Floyd – Re-signed after legal issues have been resolved
Duron Harmon – Signs elsewhere
Logan Ryan – Signs elsewhere
Chris Long – Either retires or re-signs
Alan Branch – Either retires or re-signs
Martellus Bennett – On odd-numbered days, I think that Martellus will be re-signed. On even-numbered days I think that he will leave.
Jabaal Sheard – Signs elsewhere
Dont’a Hightower – Tagged and then signed to a five-year deal right before the July 15 deadline.

9 of the 13 UFAs are re-signed for a total cap cost in March 2017 at around $31 million. Subtract 3 million from the total if Alan Branch retires. Subtract $2.5 million if Chris Long retires.

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You can have a portion of your Amazon.Com purchases donated to the Bread of Life.
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