Thursday, March 9, 2017

Patriots Free Agents - Thursday's Updated Facts And Rumors

An up-to-date listing of the Patriots' impending free agent movement and rumors, as of 3/8/17:

Malcolm Butler:  In a shocking development, it has been revealed that the Patriots are considering an offer from the New Orleans Saints to acquire wide receiver Brandon Cooks in exchange for Butler. It's not that surprising to see something like this emerge as the Patriots tried to finagle the lightning fast Cooks from the Saints a couple of weeks ago, but were unwilling to pay New Orleans' asking price of a first-round draft pick.

New England landing Stephone Gilmore and signing him to a rich (read, Hightower money) five year contract and Belichick's penchant for unloading contract year players to obtain maximum value for them lends plenty of stick-to-it-iveness to the report.  That said, if the season were to start today, the starting corners would be Gilmore and mid-season pickup Eric Rowe.

What makes this rumored deal even more enticing is the fact that Cooks is signed through 2018 on a very cap-friendly contract, and has the ability to take the lid off of defenses with his 4.33 speed and sure hands.

The rest of today's free agency developments:
Three-tech defensive tackle Branch (97) is back in the fold

Alan Branch:  Considered a must-sign, the Patriots did just that on Thursday, inking the behemoth defensive tackle to a two year, incentive-laden contract that is reported to be worth "up to" $6 million annually.  Great news for the middle of the Patriots defensive line.

Logan Ryan:  Add the Steelers, Bears and Lions to teams pursuing Ryan, whose commodity has risen substantially the closer we get to the start of the league year.  With the Patriots uncharacteristically ponying up $14 million a year for the hot and cold former Bills corner Stephone Gilmore, it appears Ryan's days in New England are done.

Duron Harmon:  According to several sources, the Patriots are working on a long-term deal to retain Harmon, whose presence would solidify a secondary that has been upgraded (depending on your point of view) by Belichick, and would certainly keep his preferred "Big Nickel" alignment in play for the foreseeable future.  This was expected, as we reported yesterday, "he has more upside and value with the Patriots than just about any other team, and shouldn't command a lot on the open market."

Update: Harmon has signed a four-year, $20 million contract to remain with the Patriots.

Martellus Bennett:  The list of teams enticed by Bennett has grown to include the Raiders, 49ers and Jaguars after being linked to Giants, Jaguars and possibly Detroit and Miami as well.  The potential bidding war and Bennett's comments about being intrigued with playing in northern California mixed with the Patriots' signing of the Colts' Dwayne Allen means that his days in New England ore over.

Dont'a Hightower:  The Patriots have had what Hightower calls "Positive talks" in retaining the Pro Bowl linebacker, but interest is rumored to be high among the Lions, Dolphins and Browns. Tennessee has reportedly entered the sweepstakes for his services and the fact that he posted an Instagram pic from Nashville last evening lends credence to their interest...and his.

Michael Floyd: Currently serving a 120-day jail sentence, the biggest loser in the rumored Butler-for-Cooks deal would be Floyd, as he was on shaky ground to begin with after being left off the Patriots active roster after a terrible divisional round performance where he appeared to run improper routes.

No updates for the following players:

Cameron Fleming:  Huge "sixth lineman" and restricted free agent was tendered at his original fourth round level, which is worth nearly $2 million in 2017 if not signed by another team.  If he is, the Patriots will receive that team's fourth round selection.

Jaball Sheard: No news on the defensive end.  He could be considered damaged goods by being internally suspended by Belichick in mid-season, driving his market price down.

Chris Long:  Announced via Twitter that he would not be re-signing with New England because he wants a bigger role than Belichick can promise.  That announcement, along with the uncertainty over Sheard and the aging of stalwart Rob Ninkovich could potentially leave the Patriots in desperation along the edges.  Look for the team to pursue a free agent or go high in the draft for an edge player.

Barkeveous Mingo:  Rumors all over the place about Mingo, who played just 54 snaps for New England last season. Perhaps some team has visions of him being the explosive pass rusher he was in college, something that he showed in the preseason with the Patriots, but never materialized in the regular season as he was relegated to primarily special teams.

LeGarrette Blount:  His annual foray into free agency will probably not garner him much more than what he made last season, so there is a chance he could return to New England on a similar deal.

Brandon Bolden:  No news out of Foxborough on the special teams core player.

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