Five Patriots safeties could be targeted in NFL Free Agency

As the March 15 start of NFL free agency approaches, we spotlight five impending free agents at several key positions who could make sense for the New England Patriots.

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Jessie Bates III, Cincinnati Bengals
Playing on the franchise tag this season, Bates continued to be one of the NFL’s best players at his position, earning the 15th-highest overall Pro Football Focus grade and the fifth-highest run defense grade. Bates plays primarily as a deep safety, but can also handle strong safety and slot duties. He has played at least 950 defensive snaps in all five of his NFL seasons. If Devin McCourty chooses to retire — he said he would make his final decision right around the start of free agency — Bates would be an ideal replacement. But he’s in his prime, entering the age-26 season, and should have a solid contract.

Jordan Poyer, Buffalo Bills
Bill Belichick loves poachers from New England’s division rivals, and Poyer would be a good fit for their defense. He has been one of the best cover safeties in the NFL over the past several seasons and has the versatility to play multiple positions. The 31-year-old also brings bold confidence and proven leadership as a three-time Bills captain, which the Patriots would need if McCourty leaves. Injuries were a problem for Poyer this season, however, as he sat out five games with various ailments after missing just two over the previous five campaigns.

Juan Thornhill, Kansas City Chiefs
Thornhill doesn’t have the name recognition of Bates or Poyer, but he’s been an effective and durable DB for the Super Bowl champion Chiefs, missing just one game in his four-year career and playing more than 1,000 defensive snaps this season . The 27-year-old intercepted three passes and broke up six others in 2022, posting a PFF grade that ranked 26th among qualified safeties and a coverage grade that ranked 15th. Like Bates and Poyer (and McCourty), Thornhill plays primarily as a deep safety (702 snaps this season), but can also play the slot (156) and also in the box (145).

Julian Love, New York Giants
A rotation player during Joe Judge’s two years in New York, Love became a full-time starter this season and thrived. The 2019 fourth-round pick led the team in defensive snaps played, nearly doubled his previous career high with 124 tackles and was rated a top-20 cover safety by PFF. He is one of only two NFL safeties (along with Dallas’ Jayron Kearse) to play at least 600 snaps and have a missed tackle rate of under 5% in each of the last two seasons. Love was also a captain and a core special teamer for the Giants, ranking fourth on the team in special teams snaps. Add in his ability to play multiple safety spots, and the 24-year-old checks a lot of Patriots boxes.

Duron Harmon, Las Vegas Raiders
Old friend alert! Harmon won three Super Bowls in New England before playing a year in Detroit, Atlanta and Las Vegas, playing under Josh McDaniels this season. Nicknamed “The Closer” for his penchant for late-game interceptions, he had a solid season in a formidable Raiders defense, recording a career-high 86 tackles, an 86-yard pick-six, a PFF- grade that ranked 22nd and a coverage grade that ranked 10th. Harmon already knows the Patriots’ scheme and, at 32, likely wouldn’t cost much to sign if he’s open to a reunion.

More Patriots free agent targets: offensive tackles

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