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5 players still available for Patriots to target in free agency

Ryan Hannable
March 20, 2018 - 11:44 am

It's been a week since the start of free agency and as expected a lot of the big names are off the board.

The Patriots still have a few areas that need addressing and they cannot just rely on the draft. They are going to need to sign a few more players.

The needs are particularly in the front-seven, as the defense desperately needs another linebacker and another edge rusher. Offensive tackle remains the biggest priority, but with the two best tackles left being LaAdrian Waddle and Cameron Fleming, it appears they will address this need via the draft and maybe add another veteran tackle as a stop gap.

Here are five defensive players still available that we see fit for the Patriots.

1. Connor Barwin, linebacker

Barwin may be the best outside linebacker who remains available. He played last season with the Rams and finished with 26 tackles and five sacks. Pro Football Focus was very down on his last year, though. It rated him as the second-to-worst outside linebacker in the league. Turning 32, Barwin certainly isn't going to replicate his 14.5 sacks with the Eagles in 2014, but it would seem he can still be a contributor. With him likely being the best available, his price tag might be too high for the Patriots. He would also be a terrific locker room guy for New England if the two sides could make the money work.

2. Pernell McPhee, linebacker

The 29-year-old has battled shoulder and knee injuries, which has impacted his production the last two seasons. With the Bears, he played nine games in 2016 and 13 games last season totaling four sacks in both seasons. McPhee spent the first four years of his career in Baltimore after being drafted in the fifth round of the 2011 draft. McPhee may not be the top option for the Patriots, but if the price is right it seems worth taking a flier on him.

3. Robert Ayers, defensive end

Ayers was recently cut by Tampa Bay so now is available on the open market. The 32-year-old is a former first-round pick, so that would continue New England's trend of bringing in former first-rounders. His production decreased last year, as he finished with just two sacks and 20 tackles. In 2016, his first year with the Buccaneers, he finished with 6.5 sacks, so the talent appears to still be there. Ayers certainly wouldn't be the player he was earlier in his career, but he still seems like a player the Patriots could take a look at.

4. Junior Galette, defensive end

There are some big question marks with him -- both off-the-field and with injuries. He was suspended for two weeks in 2015 for violating the league’s personal conduct policy as a result of a domestic violence incident when he was with the Saints earlier in his career. Just last April he was arrested for suspicion of disorderly conduct and failure to comply with police officers, so clearly there are issues away from the field. He also missed all of 2016 with an Achilles injury, but bounced back with a solid 2017 campaign. As a situational pass rusher, he totaled three sacks with the Redskins. Given his past (two double-digit sack seasons), he's proven he can be a big time factor, but is he worth the risk with all his extra baggage?

5. Jonathan Casillas, linebacker

Casillas knows the Patriots' system after spending the 2014 season in New England following a mid-season trade and being part of the Super Bowl XLIX win over the Seahawks. Although he isn't the most talented player available, his knowledge of the defense certainly helps. After his eight games with the Patriots in 2014, he signed with the Giants, totaling 3.5 sacks in his first two years. He played in just eight games last year, though, as he was placed on injured reserve with wrist and neck injuries. He could be a great low cost addition for the Patriots.

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