By Sterling Pingree
The new NFL league year begins on March 14th at 4pm, which is when players’ contracts for 2017 officially run out, become free agents and can sign with other teams. The last two weeks I have run down the Patriots internal free agents into two groups, guys that will be return and those that could return if the price is right. This week’s group is one I’ve titled: the “No Chance in Hell” group. Those that I think will absolutely be on their way out of New England.
As a bonus, this weekend I’m going to run through a list of players who are out on the market that I think would be most fun for the Patriots to sign as free agents. Be on the lookout for this over the weekend.
DT- Ricky Jean-Francois
Why he’ll leave: It might not be his choice. Jean-Francois was cut 4 times in 2017; originally by Washington, twice during the season by Green Bay and then the Patriots cut him in early December and then signed him back a week later. I was surprised when I looked it up to see that Ricky Jean-Francois is only 31, he’s a guy that seems like he’s been around forever. He’s done well for himself financially outside of football, owning 30 Dunkin Donuts franchises. Jean-Francois worked as a stop gap in 2017, but the front seven is an area that the Patriots are going to have to improve and get more production out of in 2018, so I think replacing Francois is a place that they’ll start. He could fill a role as a veteran leader on a young defense someplace else or it’s possible that this is the end of the line for the 2009 7th round pick.
CB- Johnson Bademosi
Why he’ll leave: Bademosi made a name for himself in New England, specifically in the Patriots-Falcons rematch on Sunday Night Football, holding Julie Jones in check for most of the game. Bademosi was a guy that the Patriots have had their eye on for a few years and were able to pick up after things didn’t work out in Cleveland. Out of this group, this is the one that I am the least sure on because the position that he plays is one the team has to value (especially because of the fourth player on this list). Out of all of the team’s free agents, Bademosi seems like the one most destined to be overpaid by someone else though. I think the Patriots will value him to a point, but what it’ll come down to is how much value others teams see in him.
OL- La’Adrian Waddle
Why he’ll leave: Waddle gets squeezed out because of numbers. The Pats have three offensive linemen hitting the market this year and Waddle’s backup role doesn’t make him a priority. Solder is the most important and Fleming is probably the most cap friendly of the three and I’m not sure where that leaves Waddle except for maybe Detroit? Waddle filled in admirably for Marcus Cannon when he went down, but with Cannon returning next year, bringing Waddle back seems like a luxury that they could do without and replace through the draft.
CB- Malcolm Butler
Why he’ll leave: What a three years it’s been? Super Bowl hero in 2014, Pro Bowler in 2015 and an almost traded-controversial Super Bowl bench warmer in 2017. The writing has been on the wall spelling out Butler’s exit from New England for a year. It was around this same time that the rumors swirled after the team signed Stephon Gilmore that they were going to trade Butler to New Orleans as a part of a Brandin Cooks trade. When that didn’t happen, I think Patriots fans were happy to have one more year of “The Butler” but even in the midst of a pretty up and down season on the surface, I don’t think that at any time, anyone thought that Butler would return after 2017. The Super Bowl non-performance was the final nail in the coffin in what could be a relatively ugly split and I’m interested to see how Malcolm Butler handles his exit. He’ll undoubtedly get a big contract somewhere, but when he’s finally left Patriot Place, how will he react? Will he take shots at the team on his way out of town? Will he take the high road? There is a lot of ways that this could go.
What if he signs with the Jets?
Sterling Pingree (@SterlingPingree on Twitter) is a co-host on The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.