New England Patriots

New England Patriots

New England Patriots

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - JANUARY 07: DJ Chark Jr. #17 of the Carolina Panthers carries the ball during the first half of the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Bank of America Stadium on January 07, 2024 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

The New England Patriots sat out the biggest part of free agency. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t still good players available on the open market.

Of course, the question is why said players are available. For most of them, it’s basically their age. But there remains a number of NFL free agents that would fill immediate needs for the Patriots, in particular, and represent upgrades at their respective spots.

MORE: Patriots will officially need a new left tackle

So, while the train has left the station for the Patriots to add a big name in free agency, they can still improve the team by investing in the second wave. Here are some names to know about for the coming days and weeks…

WR D.J. Chark

Among the remaining NFL free agents, wide receiver D.J. Chark makes sense for the Patriots.

Among the remaining NFL free agents, wide receiver D.J. Chark makes sense for the Patriots. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Once upon a time, Chark looked on his way to becoming a legit No. 1 outside receiver, when he caught 73 passes for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns as a 23-year-old. Five years later, Chark has bounced around the league and looks more like a complementary piece.

But on the Patriots, the 6-foot-3 Chark would immediately become their best outside threat and probably their top red zone target at receiver. Even with a struggling Bryce Young on the Panthers in 2023, he managed five touchdowns on 66 targets, and 15 yards per reception.

Chark wouldn’t be the transformative piece the Patriots need among their pass-catchers, but he’d be their best option for a big “X” receiver.

  • CB Stephon Gilmore

    INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 16: Stephon Gilmore #21 of the Dallas Cowboys at SoFi Stadium on October 16, 2023 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

    Stephon Gilmore (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

    This one is pretty self-explanatory. The Patriots have a sneaky need at outside cornerback, and they’re intimately familiar with Gilmore. And according to MassLive’s Karen Guregian, Gilmore himself is open to a reunion.

    Gilmore may be 33 years old and not the same player he was when he won Defensive Player of the Year in 2019. But can he still be a solid second cornerback and set a great example for a budding star in Christian Gonzalez? Hell yes, he can.

    Let’s get this band back together.

  • OT Charles Leno

    EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - DECEMBER 04: Charles Leno Jr. #72 of the Washington Commanders in action against the Washington Commanders during their game at MetLife Stadium on December 04, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

    Charles Leno (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

    Leno is a unique player, but historically not an unfamiliar type to the Patriots. He stands at “only” 6-foot-3 and 302 pounds, despite playing left tackle throughout his career for the Washington Commanders.

    Remember Matt Light? Isaiah Wynn? That’s what Leno might look like as the Pats’ newest left tackle. He’s made up for a relative lack of size by making great use of his 34-inch arms.

    Based on Pro Football Focus grades, Leno can still pass-block with the best of them at 32 years old. The Patriots need a new left tackle after the departure of Trent Brown, and at this stage of free agency, Leno would be good bang for the buck.

  • LB Isaiah Simmons

    LANDOVER, MARYLAND - NOVEMBER 19: Isaiah Simmons #19 of the New York Giants makes an interceptions and returns it for a touchdown during the fourth quarter in the game against the Washington Commanders at FedExField on November 19, 2023 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

    Isaiah Simmons (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

    The Patriots have already added a linebacker in Sione Takitaki and re-signed both Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings. But they can still stand to improve the overall group, and the 25-year-old Isaiah Simmons would have a chance to deliver great value. Think the Jabrill Peppers signing.

    Simmons’ talent is legit, and he may simply need a fresh start to maximize his potential. He’d arguably immediately become the Patriots’ best coverage guy in the front-seven.

  • S Justin Simmons

    DENVER, COLORADO - DECEMBER 18: Justin Simmons #31 of the Denver Broncos carries the ball after an interception against the Arizona Cardinals during the third quarter of the game at Empower Field At Mile High on December 18, 2022 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

    Justin Simmons (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

    No relation to Isaiah Simmons. But Justin Simmons is still at the top of his game, having come off a second team All-Pro campaign for the Broncos (his third in a row). Simmons was released because he’s 30 years old and expensive, so he can expect a pay cut wherever he ends up.

    For New England, Simmons would instantly upgrade their secondary as a true deep safety, something they’ve lacked since Devin McCourty retired. It would be hard to find a better mix of talent, fit, and veteran leadership, than a guy like Justin Simmons.

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    Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Check out all of Matt’s content.

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