Patriots Free Agent Target: Linebacker Matt Milano

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The new NFL league year will begin in a few weeks, which means Free Agency is around the corner.  The New England Patriots are coming off of a disappointing first season without Tom Brady.  He went on to win his seventh Lombardi Trophy, while the Patriots finished in third place at 7-9.

Photo courtesy of Buffalo Bills.com

On Friday, the team learned that some of their players who opted out of the season would be returning for 2021.  Dont'a Hightower, Patrick Chung and Marcus Cannon will be on the roster for now, but they could become cap causalities.  The Patriots have the third most cap space heading into free agency with $63 million to spend. 

Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick has made some splashy singings in the past with the likes of Rodney Harrison, Darrell Revis, Roosevelt Colvin and Stephon Gilmore.  In the offseason of 2017, New England signed Gilmore immediately in free agency luring him away from the Buffalo Bills.  Gilmore received $65 million with $40 million guaranteed. 

The Patriots could lure another Bills defender in this year's free agency period, but the money will be substantially less.  Bills linebacker Matt Milano is set to become a free agent, and the former Boston College star is a viable target for New England. 

Milano would be the prototypical Patriots free agent signing.  The versatile linebacker was a converted safety in college would provide the Patriots with strong pass coverage linebacker.  Milano has great instincts in coverage and does a great job shutting down screens and misdirected plays.  He would also provide the Patriots defense with the ability to cover running backs and tight ends.  Milano can defend against the run and has gotten better over the course of his NFL career.  If the Patriots were to use him to defend the run, he will need to attack the running lanes and impact backs at the line of scrimmage. 

With the return of Hightower, Milano would provide much needed depth to their linebacker corps.  From a long-term perspective, young linebackers Ja'Whaun Bentley, Josh Uche, Anfernee Jennings and Chase Winovich are pieces to build around.  Adding the veteran presence of Hightower, John Simon and Milano would substantially add depth and leadership to their defense. 

Hightower comes with a $12 million cap hit for the 2021 season, which the Patriots could look to restructure.  There is a real possibility he could be released if the Patriots want to allocate his money elsewhere for the defense too.  After sitting out last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hightower is a year older and that could put him at a disadvantage.

Milano will need to stay healthy for him to make the true impact in New England. Bills  General Manager Brandon Beane would love his linebacker back in Buffalo and for him to be healthy for a full season.  "His biggest thing is playing 16 games," Beane said.  "That will be the first thing he'll tell you.  He had some nicks here and there.  It's just finding that balance."

When Milano was on the field with the Bills there was a noticeable difference with their defense.  "We'll do our best to retain him and as many guys as we can," Beane said.  "There's going to be some tough decisions, unfortunately, for us.  Whether it's letting guys go on this roster or having to watch guys leave in free agency," said Beane.

The Patriots will be a serious player for Milano.  His versatility will be an attractive attribute for Belichick.  The Bills will certainly be looking to bring the veteran linebacker back to Buffalo, but he will come at a price.  New England has the ability to offer Milano more money than the Bills.  The amount of money remains to be seen. 


Follow Chris on Twitter @chrishenrique

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Boston Sports Syndicate: Patriots Free Agent Target: Linebacker Matt Milano
Patriots Free Agent Target: Linebacker Matt Milano
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