Bill Belichick has never been shy about giving former members of the New England Patriots a second chance. Soon, he might have the opportunity to bring another ex-patriot back into the fold.
As reported Thursday, the Detroit Lions have informed veteran defensive end Trey Flowers that they will be releasing him at the start of the league’s new year. Flowers originally joined the team in 2019, having spent the first four seasons of his career in New England.
However, his tenure in Detroit was a struggle, especially towards the end. Signing a five-year, $90 million contract, he ended the 2020 and 2021 seasons on injured reserve and had a total of just 10.5 sacks in 29 games. By comparison, Flowers notched 26.5 quarterback kills in 46 games as a Patriot.
Following that and his $23.2 million salary cap hit for the upcoming season, the Lions decided to part ways with the 28-year-old. This, in turn, will give him the opportunity to follow the likes of several other players and return to New England.
From the Patriots’ perspective, after all, a reunion would make a lot of sense.
1. Flowers is still a good player. Aside from unceremoniously ending his tenure in Detroit, Flowers can still play. Despite his injuries, he has shown himself to be a tough end-line defender, capable of getting out of the way on the run and disruptive as a pass thrower. While it remains to be seen if he is still the same player he was with New England, especially from 2016, his advantage in the team’s system cannot be denied.
1. Clean win over Trent Williams for a stoppage
2. Forced fumble on Deebo with less than a minute left to give DET a chance to come back
Bring the boy home, Bill pic.twitter.com/XmR3Cvlxsq
—Taylor Kyles (@tkyles39) March 10, 2022
2. The flowers would fill a need. While the Patriots made a major investment in Matthew Judon last offseason, and he lived up to expectations in his freshman year, depth along the defensive edge is a collective question mark — especially after the release of Kyle Van Noy. Josh Uche, Ronnie Perkins and Chase Winovich are all talented players, but they have yet to show that they can perform at a consistent level when asked to take on bigger roles in defense. Adding flowers to the mix would give New England some security in case the trio weren’t up to the task yet, raising the floor for the group.
3. Flowers would be a “buy low” addition. When Flowers entered free agency after the 2018 season, his value was at an all-time high: he was coming off a terrific season and had just won a Super Bowl. Oh, and the team that brought him in was led by two former Patriots employees. Three years later, injuries changed his trajectory and forced the Lions to cut him. Flowers is still a top player, but he’s in a different situation now than he was when he left New England. Suddenly, the Patriots could take advantage of it.
4. Flowers would not count in the compensatory draft pick formula. Granted, that’s only a minor part of the conversation, but we know the Patriots are surely considering all aspects of this hypothetical move. Since Flowers will be cut from the Lions and not enter free agency under an expiring contract, he will not be counted in the NFL’s compensation draft pick formula. This means that if New England were to sign him, it would not be possible to undo free agency losses in terms of getting additional draft picks in 2023.
For all the arguments to be made for Trey Flowers’ return, there are a few questions. The Patriots, for example, are currently cash-strapped: They’re currently just $9.5 million under the salary cap and may need Flowers to take a cut-price contract to return even if they free up more resources. over the next few days.
Also, the fit can be a bit questionable. The Patriots went from a 4-3 based defense after Flowers left, after all, becoming a 3-4 team again and investing in players fit to line up in such a pattern. Obviously, Bill Belichick has always followed the mantra “if you can play, we’ll find you a role”, but that’s also something to consider.
Ultimately, though, bringing Flowers back makes perfect sense for the Patriots if the finances work out. And that would also make sense for the man in question: Many players who died elsewhere increased their stock after returning to New England. A one-year contract could give Flowers a chance to go on the same journey as players such as Trent Brown or Jamie Collins before him.