Last week, I analyzed the departures and additions the Patriots experienced in the first few days of free agency. A lot has happened since then, so let’s dive right in.
RB Jeremy Hill inks deal with Patriots
Source: the Patriots are signing former Bengals RB Jeremy Hill.
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) March 16, 2018
Hill is a former second-round pick who had a very good rookie season (1,124 rushing yards on 5.1 YPC) for the Bengals, but has since fallen off a cliff. He has failed to crack four yards per carry in any of the past three seasons, and totaled just 116 yards in a reduced role last season. Hill is a straight-forward, downhill runner in the mold of LeGarrette Blount. It looks like the Patriots are bringing in Hill to compete with Mike Gillislee for the role of short-yardage back. This makes sense, because Hill’s deal includes just $150K in guaranteed money, so the team isn’t financially tied to him. The Gillislee-Hill training camp battle will certainly be one to watch.
DE Adrian Clayborn signs with Patriots
DE Adrian Clayborn's two-year contract with the Patriots is worth a base value of $10 million. He gets a $4 million signing bonus and has a $1.5 million base salary in 2018, and a $3.5 million base salary in 2019. In each year, Clayborn can earn… https://t.co/HCfM0pcA9r
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) March 20, 2018
The Patriots brought in some defensive help with the signing of Clayborn, a seven-year veteran. He had a career high 9.5 sacks as a situational pass-rusher for the Falcons last season. However, six of those came in one game against a backup offensive tackle for the Cowboys, so the numbers might be misleading. In my opinion, Clayborn doesn’t bring anything to the table that the Patriots don’t already have in Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise, or Derek Rivers; he’s just another middling pass-rusher. They gave him starter-type money, so Bill Belichick better have a plan for him.
Special teams ace Matthew Slater re-signs with Patriots
Special teams captain Matthew Slater is returning to the Patriots on a two-year deal, per source.
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) March 20, 2018
After causing some nervousness among New England fans by visiting with the Steelers last week, special teams captain Matthew Slater returned to the Patriots on a two-year deal on Tuesday. Slater is one of the unsung heroes of the Patriots; he’s a strong locker room presence and a rock-solid special teamer. He was probably just testing his market and trying to leverage the Patriots into offering him more money, which is only smart.
La’Adrian Waddle back to Patriots
While the idea of having Waddle as the blindside protector for a 41-year-old Tom Brady is unsettling, this is an important depth retention for the Patriots. Nate Solder’s departure has left the team perilously thin at offensive tackle. Look for the team to address the position in the draft, as Waddle will be nothing more than a stopgap solution if he is indeed the starter in 2018.
Marquis Flowers re-signs with Patriots
Good re-signing; he's by far the Patriots' best linebacker in space. Was thinking that a long term deal might have been better, but this way the Pats don't have to pay too much while giving Flowers another opportunity to hit the market. #Patriots https://t.co/s3HmAXJkJF
— Armchair Patriots (@ArmchairPats) March 22, 2018
Flowers has emerged as a reliable off-ball linebacker and special teams contributor for the Patriots, who decided to keep him on board with a deal worth up to $2.5M over one year. With Dont’a Hightower set to return from injury, Flowers’ role on defense will likely be limited to passing downs, which is where he does his best work.
Patriots acquire Jason McCourty from Browns
Trade: Patriots acquire CB Jason McCourty and seventh-round pick from Browns in exchange for sixth-round pick. Jason McCourty joins twin brother Devin in New England.
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) March 15, 2018
This move technically wasn’t a free agent signing, but it basically was. McCourty had been informed he would be released by the Browns, but a last-minute trade offer from the Patriots prevailed. By doing this, the Patriots avoided having to contend with other teams for McCourty’s services and will take on his Cleveland contract. Adding McCourty helps alleviate Malcolm Butler’s departure and will hopefully lead to some brotherly synergy in the secondary, where Jason will join his twin brother Devin.
Patrick Chung earns contract extension
The #Patriots are signing S Patrick Chung to a short-term contract extension, sources say. He was due $2M in 2018, the last year of his current deal. His impressive second stint with the team continues.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 17, 2018
Chung was not a free agent, but the Patriots decided to get his extension out of the way regardless. Chung does a lot of things well and had a solid 2017 campaign. Even if he got a pay raise from this new contract, the Patriots have him at a bargain.
Something to keep an eye on in the coming weeks is the status of offensive lineman Cameron Fleming. Fleming saw ample playing time in 2017 after taking over for the injured Marcus Cannon at right tackle. He visited the Dallas Cowboys earlier this week. With Nate Solder gone and La’Arian Waddle retained, it will be interesting to see if the Patriots decide to bring back Fleming, too.
Stay tuned for further free agency updates along with news leading up to the draft.