Six of the Patriots’ free agents have signed elsewhere since NFL free agency opened Wednesday.
The list of departures includes defensive end Trey Flowers and left tackle Trent Brown. New England already had Isaiah Wynn, a first-round pick in 2018, on hand to replace Brown in protecting Tom Brady, so they then turned to the trade market and free agent pool to bolster the pass rush and the rest of the roster.
Defensive lineman Michael Bennett, who won a Super Bowl with the Seattle Seahawks in 2014, is the most high-profile name the Patriots have added thus far. However, he’s far from the only new name on the depth chart.
Here’s one thing to know about each player Bill Belichick has reportedly signed so far:
DL Michael Bennett
The Patriots traded a 2020 fifth-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for Bennett’s services and a 2020 seventh-round pick. The 33-year-old has a fascinating profile, from his three Pro Bowl nods to his Texas childhood with brother Martellus — a former Patriots tight end — to his social activism.
With his outspoken support of Colin Kaepernick and a 6-foot-4, 274-pound frame, Bennett is a sizable figure around the league. However, one aspect of the defensive lineman’s on-field appearance is tiny: his shoulder pads. Bennett wears shoulder pads designed for kickers, which he believes make him a better pass rusher.
“I’ve got complete range of motion and I use my hands more instead of just throwing my shoulder into someone,” he told The New York Times. “I engage with an offensive lineman the right way, with outstretched arms.”
TE Matt LaCosse
In Denver last season, LaCosse capitalized on an opportunity for more playing time when Broncos tight end Jake Butt went down with an injury. He graduated from his previous practice squad role and caught 24 catches for 250 yards in 15 games.
One of LaCosse’s best performances as a professional came against the Patriots in a 2017 preseason game. The tight end caught five passes for 80 yards and two touchdowns. After the first of his scores, LaCosse did a fine impression of a celebratory Gronk spike.
— New York Giants (@Giants) August 31, 2017
Rob Gronkowski’s uncertain future with the Patriots, combined with the move to release fellow tight end Dwayne Allen, opened up a spot for LaCosse.
The 26-year-old said one of the main selling points for signing with New England was “how often they use their tight ends and how they use them in different ways. Blocking, pass-catching off play action, there’s so many ways the tight end can get involved and it’s really exciting.”
DL Mike Pennel
The 6-foot-4, 332-pound nose tackle played in 16 games and compiled 27 tackles for the New York Jets last year.
Pennel took a winding road to the NFL, overcoming both hemihypertrophy — a condition in which one side of the body is bigger than another — and kidney cancer as a toddler. He needed that resiliency in college when he was suspended indefinitely from Arizona State and transferred to a Division II program.
Pennel had been benched for a Sun Devils’ victory and vented his frustration on Twitter after the game. He went undrafted in 2014 before signing with the Green Bay Packers and finally breaking out with the Jets last season.
When he signed with the Patriots, Pennel said, “It’s a winning culture. They do things a certain way and they get results and, you know, I want to fall into that culture and be an asset to that culture.”
WR Maurice Harris
Harris played in a career-high 12 games last season for the Washington Redskins, totaling 28 receptions for 304 yards. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound receiver plays the same position as his first cousin, Los Angeles Chargers star Keenan Allen.
Harris and Allen were on many of the same youth football teams.
“We were pretty good growing up,” Harris said of his early partnership with Allen. “We really didn’t lose that much, so when we lost we were mad.”
The duo, from North Carolina, took their talents to Cal as part of the “Greensboro Five.” Along with Zach Maynard, Chris McCain, and Gabe King, they formed a formidable faction for the Golden Bears 2,700 miles from home. The childhood friends each had offers from across the country but decided to stick together in Berkeley.
S Terrence Brooks
Brooks is staying in the AFC East after two seasons with the New York Jets.
Despite his reputation as a special teams specialist, the safety has accumulated three interceptions, two forced fumbles, and 43 career tackles. The former Florida State Seminole was drafted in the third round by the Baltimore Ravens in 2014.
Brooks has a well-established presence on Instagram, where he runs both a personal account and one dedicated to photography. The latter features impressive stills from New York City and will surely shift to Boston provided he makes the cut in Foxborough.
WR Bruce Ellington
Ellington, who signed a one-year deal in New England after an injury-shortened season with the Detroit Lions, was a four-star recruit in both football and basketball coming out of high school.
The 5-foot-9 talent chose basketball for his freshman year at South Carolina, before doubling up with football as a sophomore and continuing to play both for the remainder of his college days. His then-teammate, current Houston Texans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, told a story at the time that outlined Ellington’s athleticism and work ethic.
“It’s crazy with Bruce,” Clowney said. “The other day he ran 50 gassers. Who runs 50 gassers? Bruce ran his gassers and then there were a few people who were late and had to run so Bruce ran with those guys too. I’ve never heard of anyone doing something like that. Do you know how much that is? Fifty gassers, that’s crazy.”
Ellington has experience as a kick and punt returner in his five NFL campaigns. As a receiver, he has 79 career catches for 769 yards and five touchdowns to his name.
RB Brandon Bolden
In an Instagram post, Bolden announced his return to New England after a year with the Miami Dolphins.
“Remember me?” the running back and special teamer asked.
“F*** yeah,” Tom Brady responded, adding eleven exclamation points.
Bolden initially signed with the Patriots as an undrafted rookie out of Ole Miss in 2012. He joined the Dolphins last season, where he scored both of his two touchdowns on the year in the “Miami Miracle” game against his former teammates.