Roster gymnastics at quarterback continues for the Patriots, who will again take the chance no one will claim Cunningham. New England waived the rookie UDFA in August and stashed him on its practice squad, and ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss notes that is likely to happen again — provided no team claims him. The Pats promoted the Louisville product earlier this month, but after playing him in Week 6, they sat him in Week 7. Although the Patriots designated Flowers for return from IR on Oct. 4, they will cut ties with their former starter rather than use a roster spot on his activation by Wednesday.
The Texans initially released Littleton due to roster-reorganizing purposes, per KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson, but the offseason pickup remains in the team’s plans. Houston cut Littleton to make room for waiver claimMyjai Sanders, but after waiving cornerback D’Angelo Ross on Monday, the team is re-signing the veteran linebacker. Littleton, 30, played sparingly in the Texans’ six games this season, logging only 17 defensive snaps.
The former had started the season on IR, while the latter resided on the PUP list. Both players now have up to 21 days of practice before needing to be activated. The same is true of safety Cody Davis, whose practice window has been opened after he began the campaign on the PUP list.
Reiff joined the Patriots in the offseason in a move which gave the team a veteran option at the tackle spot, one which faced plenty of uncertainty heading into the year. His one-year deal includes over $4MM in guarantees, which led to the expectation he would see starting duties on the right side. He played there over the past two seasons in Cincinnati and Chicago. However, a leg injury suffered in new England’s preseason finale led to 34-year-old’s IR stint and kept him sidelined for the first month of the season.
The Patriots have primarily relied on veteran Trent Brownon the blindside in 2023, along with 2022 sixth-rounder Vederian Loweon the right side. Calvin Andersonhas also seen action this season, though, so it will be interesting to see where Reiff fits in upon return. The latter has 163 appearances and 149 starts to his name, and he will at least add an experienced depth option to a New England O-line which has battled injuries and inconsistency this year.
Flowers visited New England in March, doing so again in August. The second trip produced a reunion, as the 30-year-old spent his first four NFL seasons with the Patriots. His ability to play for the team for the first time since 2018 was delayed when he landed on the PUP list during final roster cutdowns, but a return will be welcomed given the injury suffered by Matt Judonin Week 4. The latter will miss considerable time while recovering from surgery to repair a torn bicep, leaving the Patriots thin on the edge. Flowers has only totaled 3.5 sacks in the last three years, but he could be a rotational contributor when activated.
As Mason notes, neither wideout Tyquan Thorntonnor cornerback Jack Joneshave been designated for return. Both are now eligible to come off IR, but their respective recovery timelines will see their practice windows opened at a later date. The Patriots’ CB room was dealt a significant blow with first-round rookie Christian Gonzalezsuffering what could be a season-ending injury. That news prompted the reacquisition of J.C. Jackson, who could suit up as early as Week 5 alongside Reiff and Flowers if they are activated by that point.
The Patriots made headlines earlier today when they moved on from both of their backup QBs, leaving Mac Jones as the lone quarterback on the active roster. The organization has continued making moves, reducing their roster to 53 players:
James Ferentz is one of the few holdovers from the Tom Brady in New England, with the lineman having been with the Patriots since the 2018 campaign. Over the past five seasons, the veteran has appeared in 39 games (nine starts) for the organization. The Patriots made some additions to their offensive line via trade, perhaps costing Ferentz his roster spot.
Veteran Ty Montgomery got into only a single game for the Patriots last season before suffering a season-ending injury. The wideout/running back hasn’t topped 200 yards from scrimmage since the 2018 season. Meanwhile, Kevin Harris was a sixth-round pick by the organization just last year, with the RB getting 18 touches as a rook.
Trey Flowers rejoined the Patriots this offseason after spending the past few years in Detroit and Miami. The defensive lineman had 21 sacks for New England between 2016 and 2018, but he’s only collected 10.5 sacks in the four seasons since. He won’t be eligible to join the active roster until at least Week 5.
We’ve got more details on Matthew Judon‘s reworked deal with the Patriots, per ESPN’s Field Yates (on Twitter). The pass rusher’s revamped contract includes “more 2023 guarantees and upside” for one of New England’s top defenders.
Specifically, Judon got a $7MM signing bonus while seeing his 2023 base salary drop from $11MM to $7MM. His 2023 incentives increased from $500K to $3MM while his $1MM in per-game bonuses stay the same. That all results in a cap hit of $16.44MM.
More simply, Judon got an effective $3MM raise in his 2023 base pay (which is reflected in the $7MM signing bonus, not the base salary) and a $2.5MM raise via incentives, per Ben Volin of the Boston Globe (on Twitter).
As we noted earlier this month, Judon had some of his 2024 money pushed up to 2023, setting the stage for more drama next offseason. In a telling sign, Volin points out that the last time the Patriots accommodated this type of cap machination was in 2020 with Stephon Gilmore. New England ended up trading the star cornerback the following year.
More notes out of New England…
One of the Patriots’ biggest offseason acquisitions suffered an injury during practice this week. Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport (via Twitter), Mike Gesicki suffered a “mild dislocated shoulder.” Despite the injury, Rapoport notes that there’s hope the tight end will be active for Week 1. Following a five-year stint with the Dolphins to begin his career, Gesicki inked a one-year deal worth up to $9MM with New England this offseason. The veteran is expected to often play alongside fellow TE Hunter Henry in the Patriots’ offense this season.
Veteran offensive lineman Riley Reiff signed with the Patriots this offseason, and while he’s destined for a role in the starting lineup, it remains to be seen exactly where he slots in. As Doug Kyed of the Boston Herald writes, Reiff has played both right guard and right tackle during camp. The 34-year-old’s role probably won’t be solidified until we get clarity on some of the Patriots’ other linemen, including Michael Onwenu (PUP), Calvin Anderson (NFI), KodyRussey (injured) and Cole Strange (injured).
Undrafted rookie QB Malik Cunningham impressed during training camp and the Patriots’ first preseason game, and Volin writes that the organization has no choice but to roster the Louisville product as a third QB behind Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe. As Volin notes, the Patriots signed Cunningham with the hope that he could be “another Julian Edelman” and transform from college quarterback to NFL wideout. Cunningham mostly worked with receivers in the spring, but Volin observes that the rookie has taken more and more reps under center and has clearly supplanted Trace McSorley as the organization’s third QB.
Trey Flowers‘ second stint in New England will see him playing on a $1.165MM salary ($50K guaranteed), per Yates (on Twitter). The veteran defensive end can earn another $510K in per-game bonuses, plus a potential $825K in not-likely-to-be-earned incentives. This leads to a max value of $2.5MM, and Flowers will be attached to a $1.285MM cap hit.
Flowers, who agreed to terms with the Patriots earlier today after a workout, suffered a foot injury in October of last season. That setback cut short a Dolphins run after four games. Flowers, who will turn 30 next week, last played for the Patriots in 2018.
Allen suffered an injury while competing in the opening rounds of the 110-meter hurdles competition at the USA Track and Field Championships in July. The two-time Olympian owns the sixth-fastest hurdle time this year (13.04 seconds) but missed a key chunk of Eagles camp. This marks his second bid to make Philadelphia’s 53-man roster. Allen, 28, spent last season on the Eagles’ practice squad and stayed with the team via a reserve/futures contract in February.
The Panthers’ regular kicker, Eddy Pineiro, is battling a groin injury. Carolina gave Pineiro, their 2022 kicker, $2.25MM guaranteed earlier this offseason. The Jaguars’ primary kicker in 2021, Wright kicked in four Steelers games and two Chiefs contests last season.
A rookie UDFA, Whittaker suffered a torn patellar tendon in a recent Seahawks practice, KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson tweets. Matthews also sustained a season-ending injury — a torn ACL — during a Texans workout, Wilson adds (on Twitter).
AUGUST 8: Flowers’ second visit will result in a reunion. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) a deal has been agreed to, allowing the veteran to return to where his career began.
AUGUST 7: For the second time this year, the Patriots arranged a meeting with Trey Flowers. The former standout New England edge rusher visited with the team in March, and Mike Reiss of ESPN.com tweets he was in Foxborough for a Monday workout.
Flowers, who will turn 30 this week, spent last season with the Dolphins. The Lions moved on from his big-ticket 2019 contract — one authorized during Matt Patricia‘s run as the team’s HC — during the 2022 offseason. Flowers played just four games with the Dolphins, making just four tackles and tallying one quarterback hit.
The Patriots have received by far Flowers’ best work. The former fourth-round pick operated as the top edge defender on the Super Bowl-bound 2017 and ’18 teams, totaling 14 sacks and 45 quarterback hits in that span. As they often do, the Pats passed on a big free agency payment to retain the emerging talent, letting the Lions follow through on a five-year, $90MM contract.
Injuries heavily impacted Flowers’ Detroit tenure; he missed 19 games between the 2020 and ’21 seasons. Flowers suffered a season-ending foot injury in October of last year. But the Pats are taking a look at Flowers’ form; the two visits certainly indicate interest. As the returns of Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy most recently illustrate, the Pats are not averse to bringing back key performers on lower-cost deals.
New England has a locked-in Matt Judon–Josh Uche edge-rushing duo atop its depth chart, and the team also returns Deatrich Wise. A Flowers addition would crowd the Pats’ edge group, considering the team used a second-round pick to select Georgia Tech’s Keion Whitein April. But the team is kicking the tires on the eight-year veteran.
Flowers is an interesting prospect for New England. The former Patriots fourth-round draft pick priced himself out of New England back in 2019 after three strong seasons that saw him total a combined 21.0 sacks. He signed a free agent deal with the Lions and continued his consistency with a seven-sack season, but his health and production have dropped off in the last three years. Flowers only appeared in four games last season, but if he can get healthy, he can provide a cheaper option as a pass rusher in a familiar system.
The Patriots already have Matt Judon and Josh Uche, who combined for 27.0 sacks in 2022. They also have Deatrich Wise, who totaled 7.5 sacks last season. Wise, though, is set to have an $8.7MM cap hit in 2023, and the Patriots have an out built into his contract that would allow them to release him with only $4.4MM of dead money. The move would free up $4.3MM in cap space this year and $7.2MM of cap space in 2024. A healthy Flowers has the potential to replace Wise’s lost production at a cheaper, more team-friendly rate.
It will be interesting to see how Van Ginkel’s free agency plays out. The fourth-year linebacker out of Wisconsin has had an interesting career in Miami but is coming off a bit of a down year. Despite starting several games in 2020 and 2021, Van Ginkel’s usage last year was much like that of Board’s, playing mostly on special teams and coming off the bench a bit on defense. If that’s where Van Ginkel’s future on the field is, the Patriots already filled that role with Board. Regardless, Van Ginkel shouldn’t have trouble finding a landing spot. According to Jordan Schultz of the Score, shortly after his visit to New England, Van Ginkel flew to Las Vegas for a visit with the Raiders, who have five linebackers from their 2022 roster in free agency and have only brought in one free agent linebacker.
With the retirement of long-time safetyDevin McCourty, Rapp is another viable prospect. The former second-round pick out of Washington had some injury trouble early in his career but only missed one game in the past two years. Following a year where he reeled in four interceptions, Rapp had arguably the best season of his career, ranking as the 13th-best safety in the league, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). He’s a strong run defender, having begun his career as a strong safety for the Rams, but excels in coverage, as well. He’ll likely have other suitors, but I imagine he’s a top option to replace McCourty in New England.
The Patriots essentially went one-for-one after replacing Meyers with Smith-Schuster, but the team is also losing Nelson Agholor to free agency. Johnson would be an extremely cost-efficient option towards that end. If you’re wondering why you haven’t heard Bisi’s name in a while, it’s because he has missed each of the past two seasons with two separate ACL tears. Over his first two years in the league, though, Johnson was able to catch 45 passes for 483 yards and three touchdowns. He won’t win any WR1 battles anytime soon, but coming off two separate season-ending injuries, Johnson would be cost-effective and have decent upside.
There’s plenty that will continue to develop over the next few weeks, but the Patriots continue to be one of the more active teams in free agency this offseason. What do you think about any of these players joining New England? Who do you think they should sign? Let us know in the comments below.
The Dolphins have been without Jones and Nik Needham, given a second-round RFA tender to stay in Miami this year, for weeks. Needham is out for the season. Jones’ absence — by far his longest as a pro — has left the 7-3 team shorthanded at corner. It will be interesting to see if Jones can indeed contribute for the Fins this season. By restructuring Jones’ five-year, $82.5MM deal this offseason, the Dolphins added some future dead money to the contract — in the event they want to move on before its conclusion.
Here is the latest from the AFC East:
Faced with the prospect of a second-year demotion, Zach Wilson may be losing some support in the Jets locker room. Wilson indicated he did not feel his 9-for-22, 77-yard passing performance against the Patriots let the team’s defense down, and Rich Cimini of ESPN.com notes those remarks upset some defenders. The former No. 2 overall pick piloted an offense that totaled 103 yards against the Pats — the fourth-fewest in Jets history — months after a Wilson-led attack set a franchise record with 53 yards in Week 18 of last season. Monday marked the first time Saleh has threatened to bench Wilson, who earned his job back following each of his knee injuries over the past two seasons. Wilson ranks 23rd in QBR (45.1) but is second-to-last in passer rating (72.6).
The Patriots placed Christian Barmoreon IR last week, but Adam Schefter of ESPN.com notes (via Twitter) the team expects him to return later this season. The second-year defensive tackle has battled knee inflammation for weeks. Surgery is not on the agenda here, per Schefter, who adds New England anticipates Barmore returning after the four-week IR minimum. He is eligible to come back in Week 15.
Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona said he would like to see his position more respected, salary-wise, and Mike Reiss of ESPN.com posits this could affect how Cardona approaches his free agency. Cardona would have his work cut out for him if he takes such a stance. Long snappers are the league’s lowest-paid players, with each earning the league minimum or just north of that. Browns snapper Charley Hughlett signed an extension this year that made him the league’s highest-paid snapper — at $1.4MM per year.
Needham’s placement on IR isn’t a surprise. The defensive back suffered a torn Achilles during Sunday’s loss to the Vikings, ending his season. Needham was operating as a starter in 2022, filling in for Byron Jones while the veteran continues to recover from his own Achilles tear. The 25-year-old is set to be a free agent following the season after being hit with a second-round tender this past offseason.
Flowers left Sunday’s game with a foot issue, and the injury was apparently so severe that it’ll knock him off the field for at least the next four games. Miami has a bye week in Week 11, making Week 12 a potential return date for the veteran linebacker.
After three disappointing seasons in Detroit, Flowers joined the Dolphins in August. He saw time in four games, although his playing time was inconsistent. He had a significant role during Miami’s Week 3 win over the Bills, a game that saw him collect a pair of tackles. Andrew Van Ginkel could see a jump in snaps with Flowers out of the lineup.
The Dolphins are adding another experienced player to their edge room. The team has reached agreement on a deal with Trey Flowers, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweets that the contract is one year in length, and carries a base value of $2.1MM, which can reach $3MM via incentives.
The 29-year-old visited Miami last week, so a deal being struck comes as little surprise. Flowers will return to the AFC East after three years spent with the Lions. He was a full-time starter in Detroit, but injuries marred the final two years of his tenure there. After the team couldn’t find a trade partner, they released him.
That left him on the open market without any reported interest until the Dolphins hosted him. Flowers will mark the second veteran free agent addition in the pass-rush department; Melvin Ingramsigned in May despite having been the recipient of a UFA tender from the Chiefs. He is expected to operate as a rotational rusher, as Flowers likely will as well.
The Arkansas alum established himself as a consistent, disruptive presence during his time with the Patriots to start his career. After he made just one appearance as a rookie, Flowers totaled 21 sacks and five forced fumbles between 2016 and 2018. That led to his five-year deal with the Lions; despite failing to live up to that contract, he should be able to serve at least a backup function effectively with the Dolphins this year.
Miami re-signed Emmanuel Ogbahthis offseason, and he is in line to start alongside 2021 first-rounder Jaelan Phillips. With Ingram, and now Flowers, behind them on the depth chart, however, a Dolphins defensive front which ranked sixth in the league in sacks last season has even more quality on the edge.