FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — The defending champion New England Patriots were looking to a salary cap-friendly veteran addition and their existing depth to address the loss of two starters as the free agency period opened on Wednesday.
For the second straight season the Patriots will have a new starting left tackle to protect quarterback Tom Brady's blind side. Last season's starter, Trent Brown, was lured away from New England by the Raiders, agreeing to a new deal that a person familiar with it said is worth $66 million over the next four years . The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deal had not been announced.
New England also lost defensive end Trey Flowers to Detroit after multiple outlets reported he agreed to a five-year contract that could be worth as much as $90 million. With the Lions he'll be reunited with coach Matt Patricia, who was Flowers' defensive coordinator in New England.
Flowers made $1.9 million in the final season of his rookie contract last season and garnered a lot of attention on the open market. But the price tag was apparently more than the Patriots were willing to pay.
Brown's new deal is the richest NFL contract ever for an offensive lineman. Nate Solder, Brown's predecessor in New England, penned a four-year, $62 million contract to join the Giants last offseason.
New England will hope to fill Flowers' production with veteran Michael Bennett. New England was finalizing a trade with the Eagles to acquire the 33-year old on Wednesday. When the trade is completed, Bennett will join his fourth NFL team. He is coming off nine sacks in 2018 with Philadelphia and has had at least five sacks each of the past seven seasons.
Bennett is set to make about $7.2 million in 2019, the second season of the three-year, $30 million extension he signed with the Seahawks.
Bennett confirmed the trade in an interview with ESPN on Tuesday, saying he was excited to join the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick, who he referred to as "the Yoda of football."
"The Patriots are a team that people love to hate because they always win," Bennett told ESPN on Tuesday. "The opportunity to learn from that and be in that environment is good."
His younger brother, tight end Martellus Bennett, won a Super Bowl ring with the Patriots during the 2016 season.
It seems the Patriots are confident that Isaiah Wynn, whom they drafted 23rd overall in the 2018 draft, can fill Brown's void. Wynn missed the entire 2018 regular season after tearing an Achilles tendon in a preseason game.
Meanwhile, the Patriots' twin combination in the secondary will remain intact for another season.
Jason McCourty agreed to a two-year deal to stay in New England, according to a person familiar with that deal who spoke on the condition of anonymity because it had not been announced. It will allow him to continue playing alongside his twin brother and safety Devin McCourty. It also helps keep some continuity in New England's starting secondary, which features the McCourty brothers, safety Patrick Chung and cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
Jason McCourty appeared in all 16 games during the 2018 season, including 12 starts at left cornerback. He finished with 70 tackles, one interception and 10 passes defended.
But the unit did lose some of its depth. Defensive back Eric Rowe agreed to a one-year contract with the Dolphins. A person familiar with that deal says it is worth $4.5 million. Rowe appeared in four games with the Patriots last season (two starts) before being placed on season-ending injured reserve with a groin injury.
Notes: The Patriots extended qualifying offers to receiver Josh Gordon and defensive back Jonathan Jones. The team placed second-round tenders on both, meaning any team that signed them would have to send back second-round picks as compensation. It keeps alive the possibility that Gordon could rejoin the team if he is reinstated after his latest suspension for violating an agreement that allowed him to play after multiple drug suspensions.
AP Pro Football Writer Josh Dubow contributed to this report.
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