The NFL free agency period began at 4:00 PM on Thursday and the New England Patriots were one of the most active teams. Beyond the major additions of Stephon Gilmore from the Buffalo Bills and Dwayne Allen from the Indianapolis Colts, the Patriots have been involved in many different transactions.
Here is a rundown of all the recent moves and rumors:
Patriots signed Duron Harmon to a four-year, $20 million extension: While the Patriots likely won’t be able to keep Logan Ryan, they were able to retain top young safety Duron Harmon, who coincidentally is also a Rutgers product. The 26-year-old was a third round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft and has 69 tackles and seven interceptions in 63 career games. The durable Harmon also has two interceptions in the playoffs and routinely has been involved in big plays throughout his many playoff appearances.
Patriots signed Alan Branch to a two-year, $12 million extension: The Patriots had been interested in keeping the talented veteran and were able to secure a deal with the defensive tackle on Thursday. Branch, 32, was a former second round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals, who he spent four seasons with before spending two years with the Seattle Seahawks and one year with the Buffalo Bills. Despite his long career, the Patriots have been his best stop, with 62 tackles and 2.5 sacks in 40 games.
Butler’s name involved in trade rumors: With the news of Stephon Gilmore joining the Patriots, Malcolm Butler’s name has been a very hot topic in the rumor mill. Butler was offered a first round tender, making it unlikely he will be signed by another team this offseason. But his name has been floated in trade rumors, including for New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks. In addition, the contract signed by Gilmore will affect the kind of extension Butler could receive. It remains to be seen what will happen to Butler, but the Pro Bowl cornerback will be a popular topic this offseason.
Michael Williams signs a one-year extension: The tight end who missed all of last season with a torn ACL will return to the Patriots on a one-year deal. Williams, 26, was originally drafted by the Detroit Lions in the seventh round of the 2013 NFL Draft out of Alabama as an offensive lineman. After two seasons in Detroit, he was traded to New England and moved back to tight end. The 6-foot-6, 304-pound tight end fills an important role as a jumbo package tight end/lineman.