Patriots Offseason Priority #1: Bring Back Trey Flowers

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It's been almost two weeks since the New England Patriots captured a sixth Super Bowl championship.  The parade happened.  Appearances on late-night talk shows, and award shows came and went.  The victory tour appears to be dying down.  Now, in true New England Patriots fashion, the focus immediately shifts to the 2019-2020 season, and putting together another competitive team, in hopes of capturing an unprecedented seventh Super Bowl championship.  First up - the offseason.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images
As the team prioritizes free agents - both its own, and around the league - one name that should appear at the top of that list is Trey Flowers.  Alongside Stephon Gilmore, Flowers is the most important player to this Patriots defense.  He is the only one who can consistently generate pressure on the quarterback, and he's the only defensive lineman that opposing teams really have to gameplan for.

The casual NFL fan might not appreciate Flowers.  You might look at his career stats and see 21 sacks in three seasons and not be overly impressed.  The individual statistics don't tell the whole story of Flowers.  He's not the Von Miller, or J.J. Watt type.  He's not going to record 15+ sacks in a season; at least not with the style of defense the Patriots play.  They don't allow their ends to just pin their ears back and go after the quarterback.  Yet, he still manages to be one of the more disruptive defensive ends in the league.

He's recorded 20+ QB hits in each of the last two seasons.  He also appears to turn his game up come playoff time.  In nine postseason games, Flowers has 5.5 sacks and 22 QB hits.  He's recorded a QB hit in each playoff game, and has record nine in the three Super Bowls he's played in.  Everybody remembers his key sack of Matt Ryan in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LI.

His stats don't jump off the page.  To truly appreciate Flowers, and his impact, you have to watch him.

You notice when Flowers isn't on the field.  That was especially true this season.  Flowers essentially missed two games this year; he played seven snaps before exiting the Jacksonville game with an injury, and then missed the following week at Detroit.  Those games were two of New England's worst defensive efforts of the season.

In those two games combined - both losses I should add - New England allowed almost 900 yards of offense, 57 points and had just one sack.  Detroit and Jacksonville were a combined 17 of 28 on third downs.  Detroit also possessed the ball for almost 40 of the 60 minutes played.  It was by far the highest time of possession an opponent posted against the Patriots this season; almost seven minutes higher than the second highest mark.

In the previous season, Flowers missed two games as well.  One came against the Buffalo Bills and Tyrod Taylor, so the defense fared pretty well; though they did allow over 180 rushing yards that day.  However, the next game came on a Monday night in Miami, against a Jay Cutler led Dolphins team.  Cutler threw for over 260 yards and three touchdowns in the win.  Miami possessed the ball for over 36 minutes in that game, which again was the highest mark an opponent posted against New England that season.

Flowers just finished his fourth season in the league, of which he has played in three; he only briefly touched the field during his rookie campaign.  So, in three full seasons, he has missed four games.  In those games, the Patriots are 1-3 and opponents are averaging almost 22 points per game, converting on 47% of third downs and averaging over 380 yards per game.

Sure, it's a small sample size, but therein lies another positive for Flowers; he stays on the field.  He played in all 16 games in 2016-17, missed just two games in 2017-18, and technically missed one game this past season as he played seven snaps against the Jaguars before leaving.  He's been durable.

Now, historically, this is not a position the Patriots shell out money for.  With the way they play defense, an elite pass rusher is not something they prioritize.  That's why they've shipped out guys like Richard Seymour and Chandler Jones before their scheduled paydays.  However, in the team's defense, they've won Super Bowls playing the way they do, so all the power to them.

They didn't trade Flowers this year, so that's a good sign.  Maybe they are considering ponying up the money it will take to keep him.  While it's impossible to predict what Flowers' worth will be on the free agent market, it will certainly be higher than the $1.9 million base salary he had this year.  It'll likely come in somewhere in the $10-$15 million per year range.

The Pats have other key free agents to consider as well: Trent Brown, Stephen Gostkowski, Malcolm Brown, Ryan Allen and more.  Flowers trumps them all.

The Patriots are going to pay for Flowers one way or another.  Either they bring him back, or they will pay the price for letting him walk.


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Boston Sports Syndicate: Patriots Offseason Priority #1: Bring Back Trey Flowers
Patriots Offseason Priority #1: Bring Back Trey Flowers
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