Patriots

ESPN free agency simulation has the Patriots landing 3 top free agents

The Patriots have roughly $65 million in cap space available entering free agency.

Kenny Golladay could be a receiver the Patriots target in free agency. AP Photo/Tony Din

The 2021 offseason is shaping up to be a big one for the Patriots.

New England holds the 15th pick in April’s draft (its highest draft pick in 13 years) and still has questions at quarterback. Arguably the most intriguing thing going for the Patriots this offseason is the amount of cap space they have. Entering free agency, the Patriots have roughly $65 million in cap space, according to salary gap guru @PatsCap on Twitter, only trailing the Jaguars and Jets for the most amount of cap space.

With that cap space, the Patriots could end up signing a couple of big deals when free agency opens on Wednesday. As a matter of fact, a free agency simulation done by ESPN has the Patriots landing three of the top free agents this offseason.

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The simulation, which was done by ESPN’s NFL insiders projecting what contracts players would sign, has the Patriots landing wide receiver Kenny Golladay, tight end Jonnu Smith, and defensive end Yannick Ngakoue.

(Boston Globe interactive: How would you rebuild the Patriots?)

ESPN has Golladay signing a five-year, $105 million deal with $50 million guaranteed with New England. Golladay would certainly help the Patriots’ issues at wide receiver. In 2019, Golladay caught 65 passes for 1,190 yards and a league-high 11 touchdowns. However, Golladay missed 11 games last season due to hamstring injuries.

For Smith, ESPN has the Patriots signing him to a four-year, $42.5 million deal with $25 million guaranteed. Smith, who’s considered as one of the top two tight ends in free agency, would certainly bolster the Patriots’ talent at tight end, which has been lackluster since Rob Gronkowski left after the 2018 season. Smith had career-highs in receptions (41), receiving yards (448), and receiving touchdowns (eight) last season with the Titans.

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Finally, with Ngakoue, ESPN has the Patriots signing him to a four-year, $60 million deal with $30 million guaranteed. The Patriots’ defensive line didn’t have as poor of a performance as the wide receiver and tight end groups last season, but there is room for improvement. They also have four defensive linemen that played a high number of snaps that will become free agents in a few days.

Ngakoue, who started the year with the Vikings before getting traded to the Ravens, had eight sacks last season. He’s recorded at least eight sacks in each of his five seasons in the league.

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While the Patriots gained three big-name free agents in this simulation, they also lose one. Guard Joe Thuney signed a four-year deal with the Ravens in ESPN’s simulation.

The Patriots have already gotten off to a head start in making moves this offseason. They re-signed Cam Newton to a one-year and reportedly re-acquired offensive tackle Trent Brown as part of a trade with the Raiders. They also shipped out offensive tackle Marcus Cannon to the Texans to clear nearly $6.3 million in cap space on Sunday.

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