While the Patriots continue to be the toast of the town, they will face some difficult decisions going forward in their quest to repeat as Super Bowl champions. One of the first things they will need to address is their own free agents.
Teams can designate their franchise or transition players beginning Feb. 19, and have until March 5 to do so.
The franchise tag is a one-year offer to a player for the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position over the last five years, or 120 percent of the player’s previous salary, whichever is greater.
The transition tag is a one-year offer for the average of the top 10 salaries at the position — as opposed to top five. It guarantees the original club the right to match any offer the player might receive from another team but no compensation if it chooses not to match.
From March 11-13, teams are permitted to contact and negotiate with players who will become unrestricted free agents. That is followed by the free agency period, which begins at 4 p.m. March 13.
Here is a look at the Patriots’ free agents.
Jeremy Hill, RB — Signed as a free agent after four seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, Hill impressed the Patriots in his short time and had a strong preseason before he tore his right ACL in the season opener. He could return on another one-year deal.
Chris Hogan, WR — After hauling in 34 passes for five touchdowns in just nine games in 2017, Hogan managed just 35 receptions and three touchdowns despite playing the entire 2018 season. He had more targets (59) in 2017 than he did in 2018 (55), even though he played seven fewer games.
Phillip Dorsett, WR — Dorsett saw an increase in production this past season with 32 receptions and three touchdowns. His numbers may have been even better if not for the acquisition of Josh Gordon.
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR — Patterson came to the Patriots in a trade with the Raiders, and proved to be versatile. Dubbed “The Experiment’’ by Tom Brady, Patterson had three touchdown receptions, one rushing touchdown, and one kick return for a touchdown. With the Patriots shorthanded in the backfield early on, he helped fill the void, finishing the season with a career-high 42 carries for 228 yards.
Trent Brown, OT — Acquired in a trade with San Francisco in exchange for a 2018 third-round draft selection, Brown replaced Nate Solder at left tackle and played in all 16 games, anchoring an offensive line that dominated in the postseason.
LaAdrian Waddle, OT — The veteran backup started just three games this past season, thanks to Brown and right tackle Marcus Cannon staying healthy.
Ulrick John, OT — The journeyman has played on five teams in five seasons. He was placed on injured reserve Sept. 1 and missed the entire season.
Brian Schwenke, OG — After releasing him at the end of camp, the Patriots brought Schwenke back three days later to provide depth. The 6-foot-3-inch, 318-pounder appeared in three games and was inactive for six others before he was placed on injured reserve Nov. 6. He signed a one-year extension and will be in New England through 2019.
Trey Flowers, DE — The fourth-year pro out of Arkansas was a force for the defense, registering 7½ sacks. He figures to get a lot of attention from other teams.
John Simon, DE — Released by the Colts at the end of preseason, Simon was picked up by the Patriots Sept. 26 and went on to record 17 tackles and two sacks in 11 games.
Malcom Brown, DT — The Patriots declined to pick up the fifth-year option on the 2015 first-rounder. He played in 15 games in 2018, made 14 starts, and had 39 tackles.
Danny Shelton, DT — Shelton appeared in 13 games, with one start, and registered 21 tackles. He was acquired from the Cleveland Browns last offseason.
Jason McCourty, DB — McCourty played 16 games, starting 12. He registered 70 tackles and an interception after the Patriots traded for him, getting the cornerback and a seventh-round pick from the Browns in exchange for a sixth-round pick.
Eric Rowe, DB — Rowe began his third season with the Patriots as a starting cornerback but was replaced by Jason McCourty. He appeared in four games, with two starts, and had 10 tackles before he was placed on injured reserve with a groin injury Oct. 31.
Stephen Gostkowski, K — The 13-year veteran connected on 27 of 32 field goal attempts, and was perfect (21 for 21) inside 40 yards. He also buried 49 of 50 extra-point attempts.
Ryan Allen, P — He averaged 45.1 yards per punt, his highest average since 2015.
Albert McClellan, LB — After signing on with the Patriots midseason, McClellan performed well on special teams, registering three tackles and blocking two punts, both against the Miami Dolphins.
Ramon Humber, LB — Another veteran who joined the Patriots midseason and contributed on special teams, recovering a blocked punt.
Restricted free agents
Josh Gordon, WR — Gordon had 40 receptions for 720 yards and three touchdowns in 11 games before he was suspended indefinitely in December for violating the terms of his reinstatement, leaving his future in the league in doubt.
Jonathan Jones, DB — In his third season out of Auburn, Jones had career highs in tackles (56), sacks (1.5) and interceptions (3).