By Mark Paulette,
1. Justin Houston: How Patriots and Belichickian would it be if the Pats say sayonara to Flowers (who signed with the Lions for 5yr/roughly $80-85mil) and A) trade for Michael Bennett, who carries a cap-hit of $7.2mil into 2019 and has 17.5 sacks in the last two years, and B) nab perennial All-Pro edge-rusher, Justin Houston, who tallied nine sacks in just 12 games last year. Kansas City parted ways with Houston, who was owed $15mil next season, and the Pats are unlikely to go near the 8-year vet if wants that much money from his next suitor. But, if Houston drops a few million off his asking price and the Patriots can swoop him up in tandem with Bennett for around the price Detroit ended up paying for Flowers, I think Bill would seriously consider signing Houston to a short-term deal, maybe in the ballpark of 1yr/$12mil or 2yr/$22mil.
2. Golden Tate: Let’s hop over to the offensive side of the ball to discuss a match made in heaven. How long has Tate-to-New England been on the table? Two, three years? It seems to crop up every year around the NFL’s trade deadline, and now, after year’s of being just a report, Tate is on the open market. From 2014-17, Tate grabbed 99, 90, 91 and 92 receptions, respectively. He’s exceeded 1000-yards three times in his career and averages almost 12-yards per catch for his career. Tate opposite Edelman would be near impossible for opposing defenses to gameplan for. Tate made his money on his last deal, when he signed 5yr/$31mil with Detroit. Now, entering his age 31 season, Tate wants to win, and he knows there’s no better place to go than Foxboro, having already said earlier this off season that he’d “love to play” for the Pats and catch passes from “ol’ Tommy Boy.” I think 1-to-2 years around $3mil per season would be ideal for both parties involved.
3. Jamie Collins: Remember how good this guy was the first time around? Yes, he went a little rogue and Belichick banished him to the NFL’s version of Siberia in Cleveland, when the Browns were in the midst of their 1-31 run. But Collins was not deterred and continued putting up monster numbers in the ‘Gem of America’, so much so that Belichick reportedly tried re-acquiring the linebacker via trade last season. Collins’ price tag has certainly gone up since his first stay in New England, when the Pats paid him in the mid-hundred thousands annually. Now, coming off the $10.65mil he pocketed last year in Cleveland, Collins will be looking to up that number on the open market. But before you talk yourself out of the deal because of the money, just think back to last year’s playoffs and the havoc that Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower wreaked. Now imagine Collins, a much better athlete than either Van Noy or Hightower, on the opposite side of the latter. That would be one feared linebacking crew.
4. Tyrann Mathieu: Belichick has had his eye on the ‘Honey Badger’ for years. Seemingly undersized in an NFL defensive backfield at 5’9”/180lbs, Mathieu has developed into a stud, averaging more than 80 tackles and seven tackles for loss when he plays at least 14 games in a season. Following an ACL injury in 2016, Mathieu has proven his health the last two seasons in Arizona and Houston, playing in all 16 games. Albert Breer of MMQB has reported that the Texans have offered Mathieu a long-term deal worth more than $9.5mil annually. Houston is intent on keeping Mathieu and the safety would like to stay, but is testing the open market first. I can’t imagine a world where Belichick out-bids Houston straight-up, but just imagine a secondary with Stephon Gilmore, Devin McCourty, Mathieu and J.C. Jackson (who the Pats think could be better than Gilmore). Not to mention the role players like Duron Harmon, Duke Dawson, Obi Melinfonwu and possibly Jason McCourty, pending the latter’s return. It could be a new ‘Legion of Boom’ in Foxboro.
5. Ndamukong Suh: Ugh, I can’t believe I’m putting this one on here. But hell, I liked James Harrison once he came to New England, so I’m sure I could get on board with seeing Suh trot out there in nautical blue. Suh signed with the Rams last year on a 1yr/$14mil deal in pursuit of a championship. Entering his age-33 season in 2019, Suh is basically a mercenary for hire at this point in his career. Having made his money in the NFL, maybe he takes a “championship discount” in the ballpark of 1yr/$8mil to come to Foxboro and create a pileup in the middle of the Pats D.
Earl Thomas: Thomas is seeking to become the highest-paid safety ever, and after Landon Collins’ 6yr/$84mil deal from the Redskins, that market just got all the pricier. The Patriots would never make someone the ‘highest paid’ at any position, let alone a guy who will be 30 years old and is coming off a broken leg in 2018. Thomas’s wishful thinking is disappointing, as he’s yet another player who has been linked with New England for a couple years now and could be an ideal fit next to McCourty in the secondary.
Mark Paulette is the executive producer of 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