Patriots and Jets Could Exchange Top Free Agents, per Analyst

Robby Anderson

Getty Images Jets WR Robby Anderson and Patriots QB Tom Brady are both slated to become free agents in 2020.

If soon-to-be free agent QB Tom Brady elects to re-sign with the New England Patriots in 2020, it’s expected that head coach Bill Belichick and his front office staff will surround the 42-year-old with some high-profile, established talent.

Before then, New England will need to make a few difficult decisions on future relationships with a number of their own impending free agents, including FS Devin McCourty, LBs Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins, and OL Joe Thuney. With a projected $29 million in 2020 salary cap space, Belichick and company will need to rely on their fiscal creativity to balance both outbound and inbound talent for next season.

On Friday, senior analyst and Pro Football Hall of Famer Gil Brandt wrote about his 10 most “exceptionally intriguing” free agent fits this offseason, including a pair of players in the AFC East who could switch uniforms next month.

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The first potential Patriots-related transaction mentioned on Brandt’s list is the acquisition of New York Jets WR Robby Anderson, who finished out the final season of his rookie contract in 2019.

5) Robby Anderson, WR: New England Patriots
Over the years, the Patriots have made a habit of pilfering key players from AFC East rivals. Anderson, who averaged 15 yards per catch and 55 catches per year over the past three seasons with the Jets, would make an ideal addition to a New England team that has had just two players (Brandin Cooks in 2017 and Rob Gronkowski in ’17 and ’15) match those numbers in any given season since 2009.

The 26-year-old wideout had his best statistical campaign in 2017 when he hauled in 63 passes for 941 yards and seven touchdowns from the combination of QBs Josh McCown and Bryce Petty. Anderson’s production has dipped slightly over the last two seasons under a new coaching regime and the development of 2018 No. 3 overall pick QB Sam Darnold. The 6’3,” 190-pound receiver could make an interesting outside target for Brady, however he could easily price himself out of the Patriots’ price range should other receiver-needy teams come calling. Anderson could reportedly earn a new deal worth $13-15 million annually when free agency opens next month, according to multiple league sources.

Could Jets Sign Away Some of Tom Brady’s Protection?

While Brandt’s first scenario could provide a much-needed boost to the Patriots’ stagnant 2019 offense, his second scenario involving the AFC East division rivals could take away one of Tom Brady‘s key protectors on the offensive line.

7) Joe Thuney, G: New York Jets
Like I discussed above with the Pats and Robby Anderson, the Jets could apply the same philosophy of trying to hurt your division rival — while helping yourself — here. Thuney and Washington’s Brandon Scherff are the highest-rated pending free agents at a position where the Jets — who ranked fourth in the NFL with 52 sacks allowed — could desperately use an upgrade. (Coincidentally, this problem also dogged Adam Gase when he was coaching the Dolphins.) Thuney has proven versatile and dependable, having played 99 percent of the Pats’ offensive snaps over the past four seasons while only allowing one sack in 2019. It would also make sense for Gang Green to take a look at Denver center Connor McGovern.

New England’s third-round draft pick (No. 78 overall) in 2016 has quietly earned his spot among some of the NFL’s most consistent offensive linemen. As suggested by ESPN’s Patriots beat writer Mike Reiss in January, Thuney is likely to command a monster contract this offseason. The question remains whether the team is willing to make Thuney a competitive offer considering their other guard, Shaq Mason, is entering the third season of his five-year, $45 million extension signed in August 2018.

The signing remains a possibility considering the Jets are projected to have over $50 million in available cap space, according to Spotrac.

READ NEXT: Patriots Could Trade Star LB Dont’a Hightower to AFC Rival, Per Analyst

For more NFL updates, follow Chris Licata on Twitter: @Chris__Licata

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