Jackson 5: free agent targets for the Patriots

By Aaron Jackson,

With the NFL draft now over we can start to see how NFL team’s rosters will be filling out for the upcoming season. That’s certainly the case for the Patriots, who have shored up their roster in some key areas (offensive line being the best example) while also still having some areas of weakness. While a number of big name players are now signed, there is still some hope that the Patriots can add more depth via the free agent market. Here are five guys that could help in 2018.


  1. Gary Barnidge, TE: I was actually hoping that they’d address the backup tight end position in the draft, but it appears they didn’t value the guys at the top as highly as others. The team has plenty of tight end options, but outside of Gronk none really make you excited. Barnidge is only two years removed from a one thousand yard season for the lowly Cleveland Browns, and at 6’6” could be another great end zone target. Despite regressing in 2016, he still had 55 catches, and he’s been largely healthy throughout his career. He also didn’t play a ton in his first first few seasons, and didn’t play at all last year, so while he’s 32 years old he should be a young 32 in NFL terms. He chose to not play last year because he didn’t get enough money in offers, but is said to be willing and able to play this season.

  2. Derrick Johnson: This would be a signing that I’m sure Mike DeVito would approve of. The longtime Chief is now a 13-year veteran, but has always been productive when healthy. The Patriots took a couple of linebackers in the draft, but most feel neither is going to make an impact this upcoming season. He would provide some veteran experience at inside linebacker, has always been widely respected throughout the league, and remains productive, recording 71 tackles in 15 games last year. I’m not sure he would be a full time starter, but he could play part time and give a guy like Dont’a Hightower some rest and keep him fresh throughout the season.

  3. Bashaud Breeland: At just 26 years old Breeland has been a very talented player while with the Washington Redskins. Regarded by many as a top-caliber cornerback, he was almost signed by the Carolina Panthers to a big deal back in March before failing his physical because of a cut in his foot that had become infected. At the time the team said he was “a few months away” from being able to pass and sign. There may be some value there in bringing a guy in knowing that he could turn into a top cornerback when healthy.

  4. Connor Barwin: The longtime Texan and Eagle played in Los Angeles last season, and while his overall tackle numbers were down he still showed flashes of the player that had 14.5 sacks in 2014. Rumors have been quiet with the 31 year old, as the last team to be linked to him was the Arizona Cardinals last month. Much like Chris Long did two years ago for the Patriots and last year for the Philadelphia Eagles, Barwin could be a veteran leader on the team that also can provide some much needed pass rush at end or even linebacker.

  5. Eric Reid: This move would be the biggest splash of the list, as Reid is widely considered one of the best players still available and has even filed a grievance with the NFL for the lack of interest in him. Reid was one of the first players to join Colin Kaepernick in kneeling during the national anthem, which is why he feels the offers from teams are not there. Whatever the reason may be, the 26 year old certainly could provide some major help at the safety position, perhaps improving on that third spot that Duron Harmon currently occupies.

Aaron Jackson (@AaronRJackson 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.