By Sterling Pingree
Tampering in the NFL becomes legal on Monday with the new league year beginning officially at 4pm on Wednesday. Which means starting on Monday we will see reports like “Trent Brown INTENDS to sign a 4-year $72 million deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.” The deal can’t be signed until the new league year begins on Wednesday but agreements will start to get out on Monday even though most were probably discussed at the scouting combine last week. You know, when tampering was illegal. Here are the Patriots free agents that I think have zero chance of returning to New England in 2019.
WR- Chris Hogan
2018 became a lost year for Chris Hogan and I’m still not exactly sure why. Hogan played a huge role with in the passing game while Edelman was out in 2017, but even the departure of Danny Amendola, Hogan has never had the same impact that he had in 2016 or ’17. In Super Bowl LIII, Hogan had zero catches on 6 targets while drawing coverage by the Rams secondary players from the Rams secondary. Hogan has gotten lost in the shuffle of a deck that doesn’t feature that many cards, because even when Josh Gordon was added to the commissioner’s list, Hogan’s workload didn’t increase.
I think there will be a market for Hogan, as there generally is for parts of a championship team. Hogan made $4 million last year, I don’t think his next deal will approach that. Although, I didn’t think that Amendola would get $6 last year from Miami, but Dola was coming off of an outstanding playoffs. (Miami released Amendola on Friday.)
DT- Danny Shelton & Malcom Brown
We knew how this was going to ultimately play out when the Patriots gallantly rescued Shelton from the 0-16 Browns last off season. Shelton was a year away from hitting the market and the Patriots would rent-a-run-stuffer and when he got too expensive Belichick would say bon voyage. Shelton wasn’t the door slammer on the ground that fans anticipated as a former first rounder, but did see substantial time in the Super Bowl filling A & B gaps desired by Todd Gurley and CJ Anderson.
It feels like it’s been a few years since Brown was viewed as an emerging star for the Patriots defensive line. In 2018 he was greatly overshadowed by players like Lawrence Guy and now feels like a player that the Patriots will let walk.
Someone needing to get bigger up front will pay Shelton and Brown, but it won’t be the Patriots, especially after the trade for Michael Bennett.
Speaking of Bennett, how does his arrival effect Trey Flowers? It will be fascinating and ultimately terrifying to watch how this plays out. I spoke with Christopher Price of the Boston Sports Journal on Friday and he believes that Flowers will not rush into the first offer that he is given and will ultimately meet back with the Patriots and weigh all options. Bennett is signed through the next two years, $7.2 million in 2019 and $8 million in 2020 and had 9 sacks last season with 30 quarterback hits last season in Philadelphia.
Bennett could have a big impact on the team, either by keeping Flowers from re-signing or by teaming with #98 and solidifying a Patriots front 7 that last year hit its stride down the stretch. So much had changed for Flowers in the last week since the Chiefs, Cowboys, Texans and Falcons slapped the franchise tag on all of the other premier pass rushers on the market. Flowers now stands alone as the most desirable belle of the ball, so the temptation to leave Foxboro will be greater than ever, but after going to the Super Bowl almost every year of your career, your current satisfaction level has to be very high if the money is at all comparable.
CB- Eric Rowe
Who? No, really, who?
Rowe is a player who I feel like I can only remember his failures. Rowe has been labeled as a big physical cornerback which seems to be en vogue for Bill Belichick over the last few years, starting back in 2014 when he brought in Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner. Rowe was supposed to fit that bill and at times he did, but the times he was charred by elite receivers was becoming far too frequently. After being injured for almost all of 2019, Rowe is ultimately expendable because of the solidification of Stephon Gilmore as an All-Pro and the emergence of JC Jackson as a big physical corner on the other side. With former second round pick Duke Dawson also waiting in the wings potentially next season, the Patriots might actually forget that Eric Rowe was ever here, I know I have.
LT- Trent Brown
The Patriots/Brown relationship was mutually beneficial: the Patriots got a left tackle to replace Nate Solder and ultimately Isaiah Wynn, Brown took a career that was careening towards bust-territory and is now the most desirable offensive lineman on the free agent market. Brown was legitimately incredible in the postseason and at his size (6’8” and 359lbs) and his age (turns 26 in April) there are teams drooling over him all over again. I expect Brown to ink a big deal elsewhere, because the Patriots expect first-round pick Isaiah Wynn to be ready to go in 2019 at left tackle.
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.