The New England Patriots’ front 7 took a big hit this year, having lost Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long to free agency, Rob Ninkovich to retirement, and Dont’a Hightower and Shea McClellin to injury. However, in typical Patriot fashion, Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia were able to take the ragtag group of replacement-level rotational players, free agent castoffs, and practice squad guys and turn them into a competent unit that was able to help take the team to Super Bowl 52. Having seen first hand Patricia’s work with this group of players and how he was able to prevent the unit from becoming a complete liability this season, I can completely understand why the Detroit Lions would want to hire him as their head coach. He was able to put guys like Marquis Flowers and Eric Lee in positions where they could succeed without sacrificing the defense’s overall capabilities.

A few members of the Patriots’ front 7 will be free agents come March: Flowers, defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois, and outside linebacker James Harrison. Flowers, primarily a special teamer, performed admirably as a Will linebacker, with his responsibilities varying from spying on the quarterback, rushing the passer, and covering running backs out of the backfield. His ability to step up and do his job while Kyle Van Noy was absent with a calf injury was key to the Patriots’ securing the number one seed down the stretch. Jean Francois, whom the Patriots re-signed in mid-December after releasing him a few weeks prior, has done an exceptional job stopping the run in the Patriots’ base package. Now in his ninth year, Jean Francois has been a key part in stopping the likes of Derrick Henry and Leonard Fournette on the path to his first Super Bowl victory. He will be a key part of the game plan yet again in the Super Bowl. Former Pittsburgh Steeler James Harrison has consistently set a physical edge in the run game, something that the Patriots were lacking earlier in the year. Each of these guys has played a key role this year and are pieces that New England should try to re-sign for their 2018 campaign. That being said, let’s talk some numbers.

As I did last week, I will first list a few comparable contracts before providing my projection.

(Note: * indicates a guaranteed amount; money that will be paid to the player regardless of whether or not he makes the team)

Marquis Flowers

Comparable contracts:

Name APY Percent Guaranteed
Josh Martin  $1,900,000.00 22.4%
Dekoda Watson  $1,700,000.00 19.6%
Craig Robertson  $1,666,667.00 39.3%

 

Projection:

Year Base (P5) Salary Signing Bonus Proration Per-Game Active Roster Bonus Cap Hit Cash Running Cash Dead Cap Cap Savings if Cut
2018 $1,000,000.00 $400,000.00* $300,000.00 $1,700,000.00 $2,500,000.00 $2,500,000.00 $1,200,000.00 $500,000.00
2019 $1,000,000.00 $400,000.00* $300,000.00 $1,700,000.00 $1,300,000.00 $3,800,000.00 $800,000.00 $900,000.00
2020 $1,000,000.00 $400,000.00* $300,000.00 $1,700,000.00 $1,300,000.00 $5,100,000.00 $400,000.00 $1,300,000.00

 

This deal roughly approximates the contract Dekoda Watson signed with the San Francisco 49ers last year, and represents good value for both sides. Flowers would get a decent amount of cash in the first year, while the Patriots would retain a core special teams player and good rotational linebacker. I would like to see the Patriots retain Flowers, but I could see them deciding to replace him via a trade for a similar player on a rookie contract. It should be noted that the Patriots have traded for a special teams linebacker on a rookie contract near the start of the season in each of the past three years: Jon Bostic in 2015, Barkevious Mingo in 2016, and Flowers in 2017. It is possible that the Patriots will continue that trend going into next season.

Ricky Jean Francois

Comparable contracts:

Name APY Percent Guaranteed
Evander Hood  $1,350,000.00 11.1%
Kyle Love  $1,130,000.00 8.8%

 

Projection:

Year Base (P5) Salary Signing Bonus Proration Per-Game Active Roster Bonus Cap Hit Cash Running Cash Dead Cap Cap Savings if Cut
2018 $1,000,000.00 $150,000.00* $100,000.00 $1,250,000.00 $1,400,000.00 $1,400,000.00 $300,000.00 $950,000.00
2019 $1,000,000.00 $150,000.00* $100,000.00 $1,250,000.00 $1,100,000.00 $2,500,000.00 $150,000.00 $1,100,000.00

 

Aging, run-stopping defensive tackles/3-4 defensive ends are just not in high demand nowadays, meaning that the Patriots will likely be able to re-sign Jean Francois for near the minimum. I could see the Patriots extending the 31 year-old an offer like this to replace Alan Branch next season.

James Harrison

Projection:

Year Base (P5) Salary Signing Bonus Proration Per-Game Active Roster Bonus Cap Hit Cash Running Cash Dead Cap Cap Savings if Cut
2018 $1,015,000.00 $80,000.00* $- $710,000.00 $1,095,000.00 $1,095,000.00 $80,000.00 $1,015,000.00

 

The contract above represents the veteran minimum for next season. I did not include any comparable contracts because, quite frankly, there are no players that are really comparable to Deebo. He’s still making an impact at 39 years old, and is intent on playing at least one more season, but teams may have concerns over the way he supposedly ‘quit’ on the Pittsburgh Steelers. As a result, I cannot see him making more than the minimum next year. As to whether or not he stays in New England, I can’t really say. He will likely want to go somewhere where he is guaranteed playing time, and the Patriots simply do not do that — he would have to compete with everyone else for a spot next year. As a result, I do not know where he will end up next year.

In closing, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Patriots’ re-signed all three of these players or just let all three go. That being said, I expect them to end up bringing both Flowers and Jean Francois back while letting Harrison go somewhere he would be guaranteed to play.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks as I continue to project contracts for the Patriots’ upcoming free agents.

(Author’s Note: I referred to Spotrac.com for contract information and Pro-Football-Reference.com for stats.)

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Author Details
My name is William LaFiandra, and I’m a college student attending the College of the Holy Cross. I’m a big fan of the New England Patriots but also follow any NFL related news. I’ve always enjoyed both writing and sports, so I figured I’d give sports journalism a try. I particularly like analyzing and reading about NFL contracts, rosters, strategies, free agency, and the draft.
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My name is William LaFiandra, and I’m a college student attending the College of the Holy Cross. I’m a big fan of the New England Patriots but also follow any NFL related news. I’ve always enjoyed both writing and sports, so I figured I’d give sports journalism a try. I particularly like analyzing and reading about NFL contracts, rosters, strategies, free agency, and the draft.
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