How Valuable Are the Patriots' To-Be Free Agents? Part 2
Now that we have gone over some of the top to-be free agents for the New England Patriots based on PFF's top 100 best available free agents in 2020, it's time to go over some of the other players who still have value to the Patriots despite not making PFF's list.
Without further ado, let's begin:
Matthew Slater (ST, WR)
Unfortunately, being incredible on special teams without being a returner won't give you a strong enough case to make PFF's list. However, that doesn't make special teams standout and captain, Matthew Slater any less valuable to the Patriots.
Slater's contributions in the 3rd phase of the game were massive in 2019, blocking punts, putting the ball in the end zone, and constantly downing the punted ball inside the opponent's five yard line. He has already said that he doesn't plan to retire, and one would think that playing his entire career in New England would mean at age-34 he wouldn't want to play anywhere else. A hometown discount and a return to the Patriots is likely in the works for Slater.
Nate Ebner (ST, DB)
Another special teams standout is set to hit the market after a long career in Foxboro: Nate Ebner. Though his contributions aren't as massive as Slater's in the 3rd phase, the reason he has played with the Patriots since 2012 are because of how valuable Bill Belichick feels Ebner is on special teams.
Ebner's situation is very similar to Slater's; at 30 years old and having played his entire career in New England, one would expect the former Ohio State Buckeye to come back to the Patriots at a cheap rate so he can play with the team that has helped him thrive over the past seven years.
Adam Butler (DL)
Now entering free agency for the first time since signing a three-year, $1.6 million contract his rookie year in 2016, defensive tackle Adam Butler is in line to earn much more on his next contract. Butler is coming off a career year in which he finished with career-highs in sacks (6) tackles (17) QB hits (9), and passes defended (5). Though he didn't come close to cracking PFF's top 100 list, his value to the Patriots is significant.
As a rotational piece on the defensive line, Butler is the first player on this list that could easily be seen walking in free agency. His return to New England may be determined by whether the team decides to retain Danny Shelton. One could see the team opting to choose Butler over Shelton simply because of upside, but it could ultimately come down to which player would be willing to come back at a cheaper rate. Consider this one a coin toss.
Elandon Roberts (LB)
Elandon Roberts, much like Butler, signed a modest contract with the Patriots when he was drafted (four years, $2.4 million). However, this time around, he's in line to earn more money.
Roberts was a rotational piece for the Patriots' linebacking group in 2019, while also taking on duties as the team's fullback due to injuries at the position. His value to the team last year was immense, but with FB James Develin returning from IR in 2020, Roberts' value won't be as significant next season. Because of that, Roberts will likely walk in free agency and sign a modest, yet bigger contract than his rookie deal with another team in the league.