The Patriots’ training camp kicks off on July 27.
The team is currently on summer break, but the Pats still have three open spots on their 90-man roster. Historically, the Patriots move into camp with a full roster.
That begs the question: What are they looking to add?
The Pats have had a busy season with several free-agent additions and a 10-player draft class. The Pats have lost, through free brokerage or trade, veterans JC Jackson, Shaq Mason, Kyle Van Noy, Chase Winovich, Ted Karras and Brandon Bolden. Along with their draft class, they’ve added 10 veteran players and five undrafted free agents.
Looking at the current roster it is clear that there are a few positions that could use some reinforcement. Major changes have been made to the positions of the guard, wide receiver, cornerback, linebacker and edge-rusher.
More: Judging the rookie class on the Patriots mini camp
The Patriots do have a cap-space issue — just $142,280, according to PatsCap.com’s Miguel Benzan — but that was before they restructured the center David Andrews deal on Friday. They converted $3.15 million of Andrews’ compensation for the 2022 season into a signing bonus, freeing up $2.1 million in cap space. The team usually goes into a season with at least a few million to work with.
In the event that the Patriots want to fill their last three roster spots, these five veteran free agents would help:
Nate Solder, packs
The Patriots have questions about the tackle. This spring, Trent Brown switched to a left tackle and Isaiah Wynn to a right tackle. Right now their best backup is Justin Herron. Bringing back solder makes sense. He knows the Patriots system and has experience in both tackle spots. Given Brown and Wynn’s injury history, it would make sense to bring in a veteran. Solder feels like an upgrade to Herron, Yodny Cajuste, Yasir Durant, Will Sherman, and Andrew Stueber. He started every game he played since 2012, including 16 games last season for the New York Giants.
Eddie Goldman, defensive tackle
The Patriots have three solid defensive tackles in Lawrence Guy, Davon Godchaux and Christian Barmore, but lack even more depth beyond that. Top backup Daniel Ekuale will be banned for the first two games of the season for a reason undisclosed. Byron Cowart did not compete this spring. That leaves Carl Davis and Bill Murray. Goldman, 28, has started 73 games since 2015. He is 6’8″ and 325lbs and made 22 tackles in Chicago last season as their nose tackle. His best season was in 2018 when he made 40 tackles to go with three sacks. He would give the patriots solid depth.
Don’t’a Hightower, linebacker
The Patriots have seen many changes at the outer linebacker this off-season. Van Noy is in Los Angeles, while Hightower and Jamie Collins are still free agents. While the Pats are getting younger and faster with the likes of Josh Uche, Ronnie Perkins, Cameron McGrone, and Mack Wilson, it makes a lot of sense to bring Hightower back. He has the versatility to play indoor or outdoor linebacker. Hightower is also a great leader and would help the younger linebackers and edge rushers. He started all 15 games he played for the Pats last year and finished with 64 tackles and 1.5 sacks.
Kevin King, corner back
The Patriots are rebuilding their cornerback depth map after JC Jackson signed with the Chargers. They brought in veterans Malcolm Butler and Terrance Mitchell while drafting Jack Jones and Marcus Jones. They join Jalen Mills and Jonathan Jones at the top of the depth chart. Someone like King, 27, would add depth to the outside of the corner. He started 31 games for Green Bay in the past three seasons. He scored a 70.6 from Pro Football Focus last season. That would have been second after Jackson with the Patriots. King’s best season was in 2019 when he finished with a career-high five interceptions.
Ereck Flowers, guarding and tackling
Obviously, the Patriots see Cole Strange and Michael Onwenu as their novice guards. However, the top backups leave much to be desired at Darryl Williams, Arlington Hambright, Drew Desjarlais and Chasen Hines. Flowers, the ninth overall pick in 2015, hasn’t had an easy time in the NFL. He played for four teams and was released by Washington this offseason after starting on the left hat. The 28-year-old has started 101 NFL games in both guard and tackle. He would immediately provide more depth at guard and tackle. The biggest question is whether he would sign with a team where he wouldn’t be a guaranteed starter.
This article originally appeared in The Providence Journal: The Pats still have three spots to fill on their way to training camp