New England Patriots

Jan 21, 2018; Foxborough, MA: New England Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the AFC Championship at Gillette Stadium. (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

Jan 21, 2018; Foxborough, MA: New England Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the AFC Championship at Gillette Stadium. (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

Plenty of high-end pass rushers could hit the market when NFL free agency kicks off on March 13, but there’s also a chance that several of them get the franchise tag. That could leave Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers as the best player available, and a new report indicates that he could be staying in the AFC East – in southern Florida.

NFL draft analyst Tony Pauline reported on Thursday from the NFL Combine in Indianapolis that the Miami Dolphins are the “front runners” to sign Flowers as a free agent. He believes that Flowers is “generally considered the top available player in this year’s free-agent market.”

That would imply that other teams will inevitably tag their own big-time edge rushers before free agency begins. Among those big names are the Texans’ Jadeveon Clowney, the Cowboys’ DeMarcus Lawrence, the Chiefs’ Dee Ford, and the Seahawks’ Frank Clark. Flowers has become a very good player deserving of a lucrative free-agent contract, but isn’t clearly better than those other options.

So, the likelihood is that Flowers is the last man standing among those players at the start of free agency. Pass rushers are always at a premium and the Dolphins appear to be solidly in the market for one, with Cameron Wake also set for free agency and two other ends (Andre Branch, Cornelius Carradine) turning 30 before the start of the 2019 season.

The Dolphins could certainly stand to get younger at the position. Flowers would be an excellent edge defender to pair with 2017 first-round pick Charles Harris, and he’d come in having great familiarity with new Dolphins head coach/former Patriots defensive play-caller Brian Flores.

If Miami is prepared to give Flowers a top-of-the-market contract in the range of $17-18 million per season, that could ultimately price the Patriots out. Bill Belichick will have to start over developing a high-end pass rusher while leaning on 2017 draft picks Deatrich Wise Jr. and Derek Rivers to take big steps forward. Adrian Clayborn, Ufomba Kamalu, and Keionta Davis are also signed for 2019.

Flowers has developed into an excellent all-around player under Belichick, but it sounds like he will look to cash in as a free agent if the Patriots aren’t willing to meet his price.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at matthew.dolloff@bbgi.com.