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A Patriots Fan's Shopping List for Legal Tampering Day

Welcome once again to that weirdest of all times in the NFL calendar. March 13-15 is officially designated as that time when, "Clubs are permitted to contact and enter into contract negotiations with players who will become unrestricted free agents at the start of free agency." But shorthanded by the rest of us as the Legal Tampering Period. Where you can't technically sign a free agent to a deal, but you can work one out and then leak it to Adam Schefter before it becomes official Wednesday at 4pm. For reasons. 

Anyway, like that glorious, historic Tampering SZN two years ago, when Bill Belichick locked up the Executive of the Year award by going on a rare shopping spree and reworking his entire roster, the Patriots once again have money to spend. According to Over the Cap, as it currently stands, they have the 8th most cap space in the league with just shy of $31 million, and the 4th most in 2024, with almost $159 million. 

For a lot of reasons it seems likely the Pats will once again go into free agency like 1990s Lady Massholes gang-rushing the dress racks at Filene's Basement's Bridal sale. (Ask your mom. Shit was wild.) Because they can, as we just covered. Because the Krafts have made it clear that going four straight years without a playoff win is unacceptable, so they're willing to go off script in how they approach things this year. And also, they've got the advantage few playoff hopefuls have, which is a starting quarterback under team control for the next three years at relatively minimal cost. We're seeing around the league how expensive QB talent is becoming (and lack of talent, in cases like Russell Wilson). Assuming Mac Jones turns out to be The Guy - and I do - eventually the bill will come due and he'll take a bite out of the cap comparable to the one the Great White took out of Alex Kintner. So this is the year to take advantage of the opportunity while it presents itself. 

With that as preamble, here's one fan's wish list:

Tremaine Edmunds, LB

The thing is, I don't have linebacker as a huge priority on this current roster. The off-the-ball LB play was more than adequate last year. Ju'Whaun Bentley looked more like the guy we were projecting him to be when he was a rookie before injuries cost him time and development. Jahlani Tavai turned out to be a nice pickup. And on a defense that plays a base nickel package, there's not a lot of call for a linebacker. But Edmunds is no mere linebacker. With his durability, sideline-to-sideline skills and pass defense that gave him the highest grade at his position from Pro Football Focus, plus his age, he could be one the next great Pats middle defender. Grabbing him from Buffalo the way they did Stephon Gilmore, would have the added benefit of strengthening the defense while simultaneously weakening the team they most need to become week. Edmunds won't come cheap, but talents like him become available at his age only once in a generation. So he's worth it. 

Jessie Bates III, Safety

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How's this for a Devin McCourty replacement? Bates III has been in the league five seasons, and has never taken less than 1,000 snaps in any of them, and has the 2nd most snaps among all safeties in the league in that time. On a defense that relies heavily on its safeties in the run game, he ranked in PFF's Top 5 at the position in run stops. Bonus: He's still only 26. Plug him in next to Kyle Dugger and you can be all set in the back end of your defense for the foreseeable future. Jordan Poyer would also obviously be an incredible option here for the same reasons Edmunds is. But he reportedly is looking for a place with low income taxes (smart man), and that definitely is not Massachusetts.

Jakobi Meyers, Wide Receiver

Assuming they can get Meyers - who has been a WR3 thrust into the duty of a WR1 for three years and multiple quarterbacks and coaches - at a reasonable price, nothing more needs to be said. 

Odell Beckham Jr., Wide Receiver

I want to be clear about this: I want OBJ only as a fall back plan in case they can't sign Meyers. I've never been the fan of him others are. And I've reached my limit when it comes to hoping a mercurial, unreliable wideout suddenly becomes reliable. Everyone loves to compare a difficult nutjob like Beckham to Randy Moss, but it's not a ceteris paribus-to-apples equation. And even Moss went off the rails early in his fourth season here. After Josh Gordon and Antonio Brown, I'm in no mood for wondering when a guy with a history of crackpottery goes full crackpot. But GM Bill can get him on a low risk/all upside "Prove It" deal, I'm willing to give him a shot.

Kaleb McGary, Offensive Tackle

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Tackle is a huge area of need, as it's hard to imagine the Pats will give Isaiah Wynn yet another year to justify his 1st round selection. But I see them sort of wading into the shallow end of the pool, not diving in where the Orlando Browns are. Mike McGlinchey from San Francisco sounds like a nice option too, but I just don't trust a guy who has thrived in Kyle Shanahan's zone-heavy schemes to transition to the Pats gap-run oriented system. McGary is a power blocker with size (6-foot-6, 300 pounds) and speed in the mold of a Sebastian Vollmer. To cite PFF yet again, he was their 2nd highest graded run blocker, with 19.7% of his run blocks earning a plus-grade, which was also 2nd highest at the position, and his passing blocking grade in 2022 was the highest of his career. He priced himself out of Atlanta, but not NE. And signing him would save the Pats from needing a tackle in Round 1. A win all around.

Cameron Fleming, Offensive Tackle

The Patriots drafted Fleming in the 4th round in 2014 out of Stanford, where he was literally studying rocket science. He never found a full time role here, but proved himself to be a versatile backup who can play multiple positions along the line. And last season he reached a career high of almost 1,000 snaps. He wouldn't be a spectacular signing, but a good value as a placeholder while they develop their next great anchor on the right side.

Marcus Peters, Cornerback

Pardon the old clip, but newer ones of Peters are hard to come by as he's been coming back from an ACL tear, which is an injury Belichick has never been afraid of. Peters actually played late last season, including the playoff game against Cincinnati where he struggled with Ja'Marr Chase (who doesn't?) who was 3-for-3 against him for 35 yards. But he did manage hold Tee Higgins without a reception and limited Tyler Boyd to 5 yards. He's veteran who could sign for a one-year deal to fill in for the potential loss of Jonathan Jones. I've always said if I was an agent with a client coming off an injury, I'd send him to play for Belichick for minimum wage and then cash in next year. Peters is the perfect example.

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Jordan Akins or Foster Moreau, Tight Ends

One area where the Pats actually don't have money to spend is tight end, as the Jonnu Smith contract has them handcuffed. And has not paid off in the slightest. Though they did just trade him:

… I believe there's a substantial amount of dead money remaining. (Stay tuned on that.) Hopefully Bill O'Brien can scheme a solution, the way he did developing and perfecting the two tight end Joker offense a dozen years or so ago. He's also gotten production out of Akins in Houston, while Moreau has been in a similar system with Josh McDaniels in Las Vegas. As low cost, hybrid third tight ends/big receivers, either could give Mac Jones an extra end zone target he sorely needs.

So there's a modest list of options, any one of which will upgrade this team at a crucial time in franchise history. If they want to make a bigger splash, I won't complain. Just as long as they do nothing like last year. That 2023 EOTY Award won't win itself. 

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Giphy Images.