Among the New England Patriots’ free agents in 2022 are some extremely recognizable names. With a handful of veterans set to be free agents, could we see a new era ushered in? It is somewhat of a strange situation for the Patriots, as they have minimal premium free agents in 2022, but several key contributors. With potentially limited cap space, there could be some tough decisions in New England.
Heading into the offseason, be sure to check out who are the top free agents at each position in the NFL in 2022.
New England Patriots 2022 Free Agents
Heading into the playoffs, the Patriots have 20 players set to be free agents. Three of those will be restricted free agents, one is an exclusive rights free agent, 15 are unrestricted free agents, and one player will have his contract void this offseason. The names that could be departing are intriguing
All players are unrestricted free agents unless stated.
Top Patriots offensive free agents
After the Patriots invested heavily in the offense last offseason, they do not have many high-profile free agents in 2022. The most high profile of those is a reclamation project they took on for the second time in four years in Trent Brown.
Let’s examine the dilemma the Patriots face with Brown and another talented player who is set to be a restricted free agent in 2022.
Trent Brown | OT
The Patriots are going to have some tough choices to make, and Brown will be part of that quandary. Isaiah Wynn has been injury-prone in his career and struggled in 2021. He was supposed to be the starting left tackle for years, but his future is in question beyond next season.
That makes the decision with Brown even more arduous. The Patriots allowed him to walk previously after he reignited his career in New England. He has arguably been even better this time around, albeit at right tackle instead of left tackle. Given his struggles with the Raiders, he likely won’t command the same price he did last time.
Jakobi Meyers (RFA) | WR
It will be fascinating to see how other teams approach Jakobi Meyers this year. A lot will depend on what tender the Patriots put on their pass catcher. Meyers has been a valuable part of the offense in 2021, with 83 receptions for 866 yards and his first 2 career touchdowns.
Meyers certainly has value, but whether other teams will price him at a cost New England would not be willing to match is tough to judge. With just $21 million in projected cap space, the Patriots cannot be too aggressive with Meyers. However, a second-round tender would likely be too rich of a price for another team to get involved.
Top Patriots defensive free agents
On the defensive side of the ball, the Patriots are going to have some difficult choices to make. They have four major contributors set to become free agents in 2022. One of those players could be one of the top free agents available — certainly at his position, but maybe even across the entire class.
J.C. Jackson | CB
There is every chance that J.C. Jackson could wind up being the highest-paid CB in the league when all is said and done. Through four seasons, Jackson has 53 passes defensed and 25 interceptions. Most of his production has come in the past two years, as he’s posted 17 interceptions and 37 passes defensed since 2020.
Unless the Patriots open up more cap space, they are likely going to have to let Jackson walk. Placing the franchise tag on him is expected to cost around $17.3 million. Meanwhile, signing him long-term might cost New England $20 million a year. Unless they can considerably backload the contract, it seems unlikely they will be able to extend Jackson before he becomes a free agent.
Dont’a Hightower and Ja’Whaun Bentley | LB
A mainstay of the Patriots’ defense since 2012, Dont’a Hightower returned to the team in 2021 after opting out. He has played a crucial role with the team again this year with 64 combined tackles. However, with just 1.5 sacks, 1 tackle for loss, and 4 QB hits, it has in some ways been a down year for the veteran linebacker. Additionally, the emergence of Ja’Whaun Bentley has given the Patriots a challenging decision to make this offseason.
It has been hard not to be impressed by Bentley in the past two years. He has racked up 200 combined tackles in 29 starts in the last two years. His ability to get into the backfield and make plays is not all that great. But in pass coverage, he’s done a good job. On 43 targets in 2021, he allowed a 67.4% completion rate. Bentley is younger and could offer a more long-term answer than Hightower, but he will almost certainly cost more for the Patriots to keep.
Devin McCourty | S
Another mainstay of the Patriots’ defense over the past decade is due to be a free agent this offseason. In his entire career, Devin McCourty has missed just five regular-season games and has played in every game in each of the last six seasons. His ability to be on the field each and every week and contribute to the Patriots has provided a reliable presence on the back end of the defense.
The real debate here is whether McCourty will retire or return to New England. It seems unlikely at this stage that he would go elsewhere entering his age-35 season. Nevertheless, with 10 interceptions in the last three seasons, he certainly could be of interest as a veteran presence for a team with a young defense.
The Patriots’ other free agents in 2022
Who are some of the other key free agents the Patriots have in 2022? What will they do with three special-teams options, each of whom has been reliable contributors to the team this season?
Nick Folk, Matthew Slater, and Brandon Bolden | Special Teams
Normally, special-teams players would not move the needle that much in terms of free agents, but the Patriots are different. Nick Folk has been one of the most reliable kickers this season. New England has largely ridden two kickers for the last decades, so they could look to keep him around. Finding a reliable kicker can be a hard thing to do. However, given that Folk is already 37 years old, committing long-term might not be smart.
Brandon Bolden and Matthew Slater are also intriguing because of their roles on special teams. If both want to return in 2022, then they will likely be back in some capacity. Retirement is possible, especially for Slater, but Bolden has reignited his career this season. In 2021, he has 226 rushing yards, 405 receiving yards, and 3 touchdowns. That is not enough to get paid well elsewhere, but it’s enough to make him worth bringing back for New England.
- Brian Hoyer | QB
- James White | RB
- Jakob Johnson | FB
- Gunner Olszewski | WR (RFA)
- Troy Fumagalli | TE
- Ted Karras | C
- Carl Davis | IDL
- Jamie Collins | LB
- Brandon King | LB
- Harvey Langi | LB
- Terez Hall | LB (ERFA)