The writing is on the wall when it comes to the end of the New England Patriots‘ dynasty.
With quarterback Tom Brady approaching free agency and looking more and more unlikely to return to New England next year, the Patriots will start a season with a new quarterback for the first time since 2001. But Brady isn’t the only high-profile free agent the Patriots have to worry about locking up for next year.
Several of the Patriots top players are up for free agency next season and could demand a hefty contract, something the Patriots simply can’t afford to extend to multiple players. While those players have proven to be onfield leaders within the Patriots system, it doesn’t always work out once they depart. Regardless, there are a few players who are about to get paid big money next season, and here are the top five Patriots free agents hitting the market.
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The long-time Patriots quarterback will likely be leaving after the season as he enters free agency for the first time. At 42, Brady is starting to feel the effects of his age though he claims to maintain the same youthful energy with which he began his career.
If Brady doesn’t sign elsewhere, which appears likely to be with the Los Angeles Chargers, retirement is the likely destination for the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. Even if he does sign elsewhere, it wouldn’t be for more than a year or two tops.
Replacement: Jarrett Stidham is currently being groomed to replace Brady at quarterback, but whether that works out is a different story. New England may look to bring in another veteran on a short term deal to help bridge the gap between Brady and Stidham, and Philip Rivers could be that guy.
The left guard subdued Aaron Donald during Super Bowl LIII and has been the most consistent lineman for New England since he was drafted by the team. Thuney commands a big contract, but the Patriots might not want to give him one.
With New England already paying David Andrews and Shaq Mason, doling out maximum money for another guard could be superfluous.
Replacement: With Thuney gone and Andrews healthy next year, Ted Karras could be resigned for a low price while injured rookie Hjalte Froholdt finally makes his way onto the line.
Kyle Van Noy
Likely the most impactful departure in the offseason, Van Noy led the Patriots with 14 QB hits during the regular season and has turned into one of the league’s top outside linebackers since arriving in New England in 2016.
He turned his career around successfully in New England and is now in line for a huge deal in the offseason, one he likely won’t get with the Patriots.
Replacement: Honestly, the Patriots should make it a priority to resign Van Noy. But if they can’t afford him, they may turn to free agency or even the draft for a replacement.
Another outside linebacker and pass rusher who is familiar with the Patriots’ defensive scheme. New England would hope to retain one of Van Noy or Collins, and the latter may end up being the one.
But if he does depart after reviving a spiraling career, it may be for a contract just out of New England’s price range.
Replacement: Collins leaving may finally open up a spot for Derek Rivers on the Patriots defense. It would be a contract year for the 2017 draft choice and perhaps one final chance to stick with the Patriots defense.
Another long-time Patriots captain, the special teams ace is approaching his age 35 season and might be in a position to retire after what has been a successful career. Slater has defined what it means to be a role player in the modern-day NFL and may transition to a coaching role immediately.
Replacement: Should he retire, Nate Ebner and Brandon Bolden will help fill in for Slater’s loss while Justin Bethel could slot right into Slater’s onfield role.